January 6, 2010
Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein
On Thursday, February 25th, acclaimed New York-based composer, and New England Conservatory alumnus, Darcy James Argue will return to Boston with his innovative 18-piece big band, Secret Society, for a performance at Regattabar. This will be the four year-old ensemble’s Boston debut, and first concert in New England since the release of its celebrated 2009 recording, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), which appeared on more than 70 best-of-the-year lists and was named Best Debut in the prestigious Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll.
“Argue’s tunes can command your attention anywhere,” writes Newsweek‘s Seth Colter Walls, “no small feat in our media-saturated world.” Critics called the record “a seven-track marvel of imagination” (David R. Adler, Time Out New York), “a fully integrated sound world as current as it is timeless” (Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com), “a nearly perfect creative synthesis between tradition and innovation” (John Eyles, BBC) and “a wickedly intelligent dispatch from the fading border between orchestral jazz and post-rock and classical minimalism” (Nate Chinen, New York Times). JazzTimes‘ Michael J. West adds, “With their haunting compositions and imaginative experiments, Argue’s Secret Society might do for jazz what Radiohead did for rock—and poach some of its audience, too.”
A Vancouver native, and former member of the Montreal jazz scene, Argue moved to New York in 2003 after earning a Master’s Degree in Boston while studying with legendary composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer. Heralded for both his composing skills and his role as one of the jazz world’s most prominent bloggers, he has been profiled on National Public Radio (NPR) and in publications such as Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. His rise to prominence in 2009 was further aided by notable performances around New York as well as in Germany, The Netherlands and Canada, where he conducted an all-star performance of a new, specially commissioned piece at the National Jazz Awards. The Boston Globe‘s Joan Anderman concludes, “Argue is that rare bird in any genre—an original thinker—but his real gift is in transposing big ideas into music that is as inviting as it is innovative.”
December 31, 2009
Multi-facted jazz industry veteran Neil Tesser writes about what he feels are the 10 most important jazz recordings of 2009 in his capacity as the increasingly prolific Chicago Jazz Music Examiner at Examiner.com
At number four on his list is Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam).
“Darcy James Argue’s 18-piece jazz orchestra had never made an album,” Tesser recalls, “for those outside of New York, the band existed primarily in rumor and reputation. Then comes this collection of seven brilliantly scored, utterly inventive, masterfully performed large-scale works, each brimming with high energy and new sounds, but also showing a firm command of the big-band tradition.”
He adds, “The Vancouver-born Argue studied with Bob Brookmeyer, a legendary figure in jazz orchestration, known first for his work with Gerry Mulligan in the 50s and then, in the 80s, with what is now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. But I hear in Argue’s work a more direct link to the man who provided the seeds for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra – the composer and arranger Thad Jones, who rewrote the book on jazz composition in the 1970s. (And in my book, praise doesn’t come much higher than that.)“
December 30, 2009
Larry Blumenfeld writes about his favorite CDs of the year, including Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam), in today’s Wall Street Journal.
“Composer and big-band leader Darcy James Argue’s blog contains some of the most literate and invigorating writing about modern jazz and its context—free of cliché, wary of dogma, catholic about tastes, and fastidious about details. The same can be said of Mr. Argue’s compositions for the extraordinary ensemble he conducts. This debut studio recording reveals something fully matured: brimming with fresh ideas; elegant in its combination of disparate influences (from distorted electric guitar to magisterial wind-instrument arrangements to minimalist rhythms); and accomplished in execution.”
December 23, 2009
Resident jazz critic Devin Leonard includes Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) on his 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2009 list in today’s New York Observer.
“As the name of his nu big band suggests” Leonard writes, “the composer-bandleader-blogger Darcy James Argue sees himself as an artistic insurgent. He is a former student of trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, celebrated for his work as an arranger who broke new ground as an arranger for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in the sixties and seventies. But Infernal Machines also draws on the minimalism of Steve Reich and the apocalyptic rock and roll of Radiohead. This is also music with a message, a decidedly leftist one. What else would you expect from a Canadian jazz man resettled in Carroll Gardens?”
December 21, 2009
Time Out New York‘s Music Editor Steve Smith chose Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) as the only jazz record on his 10 best albums of 2009 list, published in the latest issue.
“Composer and bandleader Argue’s highly anticipated debut offered an expansive, inclusive new jazz that’s open to all,” Smith wrote.
The magazine’s five-star review of Infernal Machines, written by David R. Adler for the May 7th issue, can be found here.
December 19, 2009
Darcy James Argue‘s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) is number eight on Nate Chinen’s multi-genre top 10 list in Sunday’s New York Times.
“A wickedly intelligent dispatch from the fading border between orchestral jazz and post-rock and classical minimalism,” Chinen writes, “this impressive debut radiates self-assurance, and an almost chilling steadiness of conviction.”
December 18, 2009
Darcy James Argue‘s highly acclaimed debut, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam), has already turned up on dozens of best-of-the-year lists all around the jazz world, but being named one of eMusic’s 60 Best Albums of 2009 is a testimony to Argue’s ability to not only integrate different styles and genres into his sound, but also to develop an audience for creative big band music well beyond jazz aficionados.
“Critics are raving because the innovations are organic and synthesized rather than slapdash,” writes the uncredited reviewer. “I hear nods to the smooth textural vamps and odd time signatures of Steve Reich, the dynamism and harmonies of Gil Evans, the flowing lyricism of Maria Schneider, the gusty, cavernous blowouts of Christian Scott, the shamble of Tortoise and the jazz-rock of Charlie Hunter. Or not. When there are that many citations (and other reviewers have their own comparisons), it becomes clear that most of Argue’s ideas are homespun. New music—what a concept.”