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.”


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


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


Darcy James Argue In Today’s Wall Street Journal

June 3, 2009
Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

In a new article published in today’s Wall Street Journal, Martin Johnson explores the resurgence of innovative big bands in jazz, using ensembles led by Darcy James Argue, David Binney and Chris Jentsch as prime examples.

Argue is quoted extensively in the piece, and Johnson writes that his recently released debut, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), “features a dazzling sound that echoes the rock group Radiohead, minimalist composer Steve Reich, and a full breadth of the jazz tradition.”


The Thirteenth Assembly Featured In The Wall Street Journal

April 9, 2009
Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

The quartet of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, guitarist Mary Halvorson, violist Jessica Pavone and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, otherwise known as The Thirteenth Assembly, is featured in today’s Wall Street Journal.

“Each of these musicians is a masterly soloist, and they all are creating music that is delicate, complex and eclectic,” writes Martin Johnson. “The four musicians have released some of the most compelling jazz of the past six months.”

The Thirteenth Assembly’s debut, (un)sentimental, was released in February on Important Records.


Wall Street Journal: Petit Oiseau A 2008 Stand Out

December 29, 2008

In the December 27th issue of the Wall Street Journal, Larry Blumenfeld included the William Parker Quartet’s Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity) in his list of five standout jazz recordings of 2008.

He writes, “Petit Oiseau is the strongest offering yet from Mr. Parker’s quartet.  This music celebrates free improvisation at its highest level, yet in accessible form; that’s due to the succinct beauty of Mr. Parker’s themes and the force of his bass grooves, most of which would work just as well grounding rhythm-and-blues songs.”