Darcy James Argue Returns To Boston February 25th

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.”


Infernal Machines On Neil Tesser’s Top 10 List

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.)


Wall Street Journal: Toasting 2009’s Best Jazz CDs

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.”


Infernal Machines Is One Of The New York Observer’s 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2009

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?”


Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines One Of Time Out New York’s Best Albums Of 2009

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.


Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines Makes Nate Chinen’s Top 10 Of 2009

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.”


Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines Among eMusic’s Best Albums Of 2009

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.”


Darcy James Argue On The Jazz Session

December 11, 2009


Composer Darcy James Argue is featured on the new December 11th episode of The Jazz Session with Jason Crane, who summarizes the show below.

Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records, 2009), the debut CD from composer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, is one of the most talked-about records of the year. In this interview, Argue reveals why he chose to write modern music using a big band as his musical vehicle; how he turned a simple blog into a social media juggernaut; and why the last thing he wants to be is nostalgic about music.”


Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society To Perform Twice During 2010 APAP Conference

December 8, 2009

Photo by Chad Batka for The New York Times

Composer Darcy James Argue and his acclaimed ensemble, Secret Society, will perform on back-to-back nights in early January during the 2010 Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference in New York. On Friday, January 8th at 6:20 p.m., the group will play a short set at Le Poisson Rouge as part of the 2010 NYC Winter JazzFest. The following night at The Jazz Gallery, the band will play two full sets, starting at 9:00 and 10:30 p.m. respectively, and unveil a newly written composition.

“Le Poisson Rouge and The Jazz Gallery are our two favorite venues to play in New York,” Argue explains, “as you can probably tell by the frequency with which we return. They put the music first and treat the artists with basic human decency—qualities that are vanishingly rare, especially in today’s climate. These venues are exceptional in other ways: the Jazz Gallery is one of NYC’s few independent, not-for-profit performance spaces devoted exclusively to jazz, while Le Poisson Rouge is the only club in town where you can listen to a performance of the complete Xenakis string quartets while knocking back a Red Stripe.”

“A year ago,” he continues, “we kicked off The Jazz Gallery’s Large Ensemble Commissions Series. Immediately thereafter we went into the studio to record Infernal Machines. It would appear The Jazz Gallery is an auspicious spot to present new works. I figured we’d best do it again. Also, we are extremely excited to be a part of this year’s Winter JazzFest, which is a rare opportunity to hear sets by established artists like Nicholas Payton and Matt Wilson on the same bill as killing new talent like Mark Guiliana and Chelsea Baratz. The lineup represents a broad spectrum of the most exciting music coming out of the New York jazz scene right now, without getting hung up on a particular scene or sound.”

After slowly developing his sound over the course of the past four years, Argue became one of the most talked about new voices of 2009 thanks to the response to his debut release, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), and the series of performances that followed in New York, Germany, The Netherlands and his native Canada. The new decade begins where the last one left off, with two notable January performances in New York followed by upcoming dates in Boston and beyond. In addition to the new piece being premiered at The Jazz Gallery, Argue will also be working on a new composition for the new music ensemble, Newspeak, thanks to a grant from the American Composers Forum’s Jerome Composers Commissioning Program.


NPR Music: Take Five’s Top 10 Jazz Records Of 2009

December 7, 2009


The weekly NPR Music column Take Five reached out to ten of its contributors to ask each for his/her favorite jazz album of 2009.

The resulting Top 10 list, posted yesterday, features Darcy James Argue‘s Infernal Machines, which continues to build its case as one of the most acclaimed jazz releases of the year.

“Argue makes his Secret Society debut with Infernal Machines,” writes Josh Jackson, host of WBGO’s The Checkout, “and he introduces a band that pulses like a steam locomotive. His compositions don’t punk the idea of jazz orchestra. Instead, they expand its source code to include organized sound from today and references beyond the time when large ensembles were de facto. Elements of classical minimalism, anthemic rock, and Ellingtonia meet a cast of improvisers who make this jazz in every way. It would be a shame to keep this kind of originality a secret.”