Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines Released Today

May 12, 2009

Today is the official street date for Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), the long-awaited studio debut of composer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.

I could go ahead and tell you that the media, both jazz and the other kinds, have come out in unanimous support of this one, but showing you is probably the more effective way to go.

So, you can go here to check out some of Darcy’s favorite pull quotes, or you can go right to the source and read the original pieces in publications such as AllAboutJazz.com (feature), AllAboutJazz.com (review), NewMusicBox.org, the New York Times, Newsweek, NPRMusic.com, the Ottawa Citizen, Time Out New York and the Village Voice.

Lots more coverage of this one is on the way, so please stay tuned.

FYI, the group will be performing at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam (May 28th), Domicil in Dortmund, Germany (May 29th), the Moers Festival in Moers, Germany (May 31st), and the International House in Philadelphia, PA (June 5th) as part of the Ars Nova Workshop series.

The Vancouver native will also premiere a new, specially commissioned work at Canada’s National Jazz Awards on May 14th to be performed by the all-star Darcy Hepner Jazz Orchestra.

NY Times Review: Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines

May 11, 2009

Nate Chinen’s review of Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), the anxiously awaited debut studio release from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, appears in today’s New York Times.

“It’s a potent debut,” Chinen writes, “and the weight of its achievement feels properly definitive, like something the band has steadily been working toward.”

He adds, “Movement is the album’s unspoken theme, and fluidity its strongest subtext. He extracts just as much energy from a slow prowl, like the one on ‘Jacobin Club,’ as he does from the album’s livelier grooves, like the closing track, ‘Obsidian Flow,’ with its irregular pulse.”

Darcy James Argue Fever. Catch it.

May 8, 2009
Photo by Ben Anaman

Photo by Ben Anaman

I’m not a doctor, and I don’t like to throw around words like pandemic, but Darcy James Argue fever is more virulent and contagious than Swine Flu H1N1.  

Common symptoms to watch for include listening to newfangled big band music and aimlessly wandering the streets in an anachronistic-looking tuxedo (with scarf).  

I’m pleased to report, though, that no deaths have been linked to the condition thus far—just a little soreness in my blogging fingers.

If, somehow, you’ve avoided infection by sealing yourself inside your home with duct tape and plastic or a prescription for more cowbell, perhaps we can still coax you out to tonight’s highly anticipated CD release party for Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records) at Galapagos with yet another blast of motivational press coverage.

Today’s batch includes a CD Pick of the Week from WNYC’s Soundcheck, Trevor Hunter’s review at New Music Box and Eric Benson’s feature at AllAboutJazz.com.

If your hermetically sealed bubble does not allow for quick egress, or you simply can’t get to New York by tonight, the group will also be performing at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam (May 28th), Domicil in Dortmund, Germany (May 29th), the Moers Festival in Moers, Germany (May 31st), and the International House in Philadelphia, PA (June 5th) as part of the Ars Nova Workshop series.

Argue, a Vancouver native, will also premiere a new, specially commissioned work at Canada’s National Jazz Awards on May 14th to be performed by the all-star Darcy Hepner Jazz Orchestra.  

Given the country’s free health care system, I say this last one is the safe bet.


Darcy James Argue Breaks Out Says Hale

April 21, 2009

Canadian jazz writer James Hale weighs in on Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), the highly anticipated debut studio recording from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, in a recent entry on his blog, Jazz Chronicles.

The disc comes out May 12th following a CD release concert on May 8th at Galapagos in Brooklyn as part of the label’s Undiscovered Islands series.

Hale’s review concludes, “An exciting stylist with an abundance of ideas, Argue deserves his place alongside [Maria] Schneider, [John] Hollenbeck and other contemporary big band arrangers who are looking beyond traditional notions of what a large jazz orchestra should, and can, sound like.”

Debut CD From Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society Coming May 12th

February 18, 2009

On May 12th, New Amsterdam Records will release Infernal Machines (NWAM017), the debut studio recording by New York’s acclaimed 18-piece steampunk big band, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.  The New York CD release party is planned for early May to be followed by tentative tour dates around the Northeast in late May and early June.  The group will also perform on May 31st at Germany’s legendary Moers Festival.

Led by award-winning Brooklyn-based composer Darcy James Argue, and featuring an esteemed cast of co-conspirators, Secret Society is regarded as “surely the most buzzed-about big band in town” (Time Out New York).  Infernal Machines, which takes its name from a John Philip Sousa quote about the dangers of music technology, features new definitive studio recordings of material Argue and the band have been developing since their first gig in 2005.

“My music for Secret Society,” Argue explains, “essentially comes out of me imagining an alternate reality where big bands were still widely popular (instead of a curious anachronism), and where jazz was still on speaking terms with other musical genres. What if you had this contemporary big band that had a shared sonic vocabulary with bands like Tortoise or TV On The Radio? What would that sound like?” 

“Some people, he continues, “have this belief that jazz is supposed to be something pure, uncontaminated by popular culture or outside influences. But that’s a relatively new idea, one that’s been imposed on the music only recently. That’s not something that Duke Ellington or Charles Mingus or any of those guys would have recognized.”

“As the name implies,” writes the New York Times‘ Nate Chinen, “this 18-piece big band is calibrated for maximum intrigue, with a sound that suggests Steve Reich minimalism as well as orchestral jazz in the lineage of Bob Brookmeyer (one of Mr. Argue’s mentors).” 

Time Out New York‘s Hank Shteamer adds, “No swing-era revivalist, Argue draws on the full spectrum of modern rock, jazz and classical music with his band, Secret Society.  Yet his complex, emotionally charged pieces handily transcend pastiche…the album ought to not only raise Argue’s profile, but also serve as a reminder that big-band jazz needn’t be a fossil.”

Despite the inherent obstacles facing a big band leader in 2009, Argue is one of the most visible and respected musicians in New York.  Part of that success comes from the broad-spectrum popularity of his blog, also called Secret Society, which covers relevant political issues as well as musical ones.  Musically, as AllAboutJazz.com’s R.J. Deluke recently observed, “He’s garnered critical praise from just about everyone who has heard the band.” 

Critics have called him “a young jazz master” (The New Yorker) and noted his penchant for “mixing jazz harmony, rock edge and postmodern angst into a new music creole” (Tom Greenland, AllAboutJazz-New York).  “The morning after,” declared Montreal Gazette reviewer Juan Rodriguez, “I was still stunned at what I’d heard—clearly some of the most ambitious and compelling sounds I’ve ever encountered in the past 40 years.”

Argue, a native of Vancouver, first made a name for himself as part of the Montreal jazz scene before moving to Boston in 2000 to study with legendary jazz composer, Bob Brookmeyer.  A veteran of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, he moved to New York three years later, and immediately began seeking out performers to make his distinctive vision for a modern-day big band a reality. 

His extensive resume also includes arranging work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra featuring jazz/soul vocalist Lizz Wright, alt-country artist Shelby Lynne and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.  The recipient of a variety of commissions and composition awards, Argue will accept his latest, the SOCAN/CAJE Phil Nimmons Emerging Composer Award, in May at Canada’s National Jazz Awards in Toronto.  

Learn more at http://secretsociety.typepad.com