Darcy James Argue To Perform At New Languages Festival & Jazz Gallery In September

July 21, 2009
Photo by Ben Anaman

Photo by Ben Anaman

This September, composer/conductor Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece steampunk big band, Secret Society, will perform in New York on two consecutive nights.

On Thursday, September 17th at 11:30 p.m., the group will appear at the fifth annual New Languages Festival at McCarren Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The following night, at 9:00 and 10:30 p.m, Argue and the ensemble will return to Manhattan’s Jazz Gallery, which commissioned two of the tracks heard on its acclaimed debut, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam). These concerts will mark the first-ever performances of Argue’s latest composition.

Critics have credited Argue with creating “a nearly perfect creative synthesis between tradition and innovation” (John Eyles, BBC.com), “a fully integrated sound world as current as it is timeless” (Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com) and “startling and satisfying original music played by some very impressive musicians” (Michael G. Nastos, AllMusic.com).

“We’re just past the halfway point, and the acclaimed young bandleader’s Infernal Machines is 2009’s consensus jazz disc,” adds the Village Voice‘s Jim Macnie. “A fanfare here, a freak-out there, enough dark hues and ingenious oddities to woo a twenty-something audience that doesn’t know or care about the ancient stack o’ riffs that big bands were built on; it’s all here.”

A native of Vancouver, 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 Bob Brookmeyer. Since the debut of Secret Society in 2005, he has become one of the most visible and respected musicians in New York, as well as one of the jazz world’s most prolific and influential bloggers.

His recent career highlights include profiles in publications such as the New York ObserverNewsweek, the Wall Street Journal and the Village Voice, three nominations in this year’s Jazz Journalists Association Awards and performances at such notable European venues as the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and the legendary Moers Festival in Germany. Learn more at http://secretsociety.typepad.com

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Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society At Le Poisson Rouge July 15th

July 1, 2009
© 2009 Oliver Heisch/Moers Festival

© 2009 Oliver Heisch/Moers Festival

On Wednesday, July 15th at 7:30 p.m., composer/conductor Darcy James Argue will perform at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge with his 18-piece steampunk big band, Secret Society.

This event, the group’s first concert in its native New York since the release of its acclaimed debut, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), will feature the American premiere of “Hard Up on the Down Low”, a commissioned piece Argue premiered at Canada’s National Jazz Awards in May.

He describes the piece, which showcases longtime collaborator Ingrid Jensen’s electronically processed trumpet, as “a cheery little anthem of global financial collapse. It’s built around two Bernard Purdie beats that have been juxtaposed to create a quasi-bulería pattern.”

Its original performance, prior to his being awarded the SOCAN/CAJE Phil Nimmons Emerging Composer Award by the man himself, featured Argue conducting the all-star Darcy Hepner Orchestra. This is the first time it will be played live by his own ensemble, which the Wall Street Journal‘s Martin Johnson calls “one of the leading new big bands in jazz.”

Noted independent radio station WFMU will record the concert for future broadcast.

“Argue’s tunes can command your attention anywhere,” writes Newsweek‘s Seth Colter Walls, “no small feat in our media-saturated world.” Critics have called him “a masterful tunesmith” (Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com), “an exciting stylist with an abundance of ideas” (James Hale, Jazz Chronicles) and “an indefatigable young composer” (Nate Chinen, New York Times).

The BBC’s John Eyles adds, “Secret Society achieves a nearly perfect creative synthesis between tradition and innovation, without obvious tensions. Darcy James Argue has created a big band for the twenty-first century that builds on the strengths of the past while using the genre to produce dynamic contemporary music.

A native of Vancouver, 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 Bob Brookmeyer. Since the debut of Secret Society in 2005, he has become one of the most visible and respected musicians in New York, as well as one of the jazz world’s most prolific and influential bloggers.

His recent career highlights include profiles in publications such as Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal and the Village Voice, three nominations in this year’s Jazz Journalists Association Awards and performances at such notable European venues as the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and the legendary Moers Festival in Germany. Learn more at http://secretsociety.typepad.com


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