579

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines The reverb-drenched cajon rhythm, subtle electric guitar washes and lush horn refrains that open Infernal Machines, the studio debut of Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, introduce the sound of a big band like no other—proving that the critical acclaim lavished upon this eighteen-piece ensemble since their first gig in 2005 has been entirely justified.

Despite boasting an album title quoting John Philip Sousa on the dangers of technological music advancements, Argue's Secret Society nonetheless embraces the future, eschewing swing band revivalism in favor of a contemporary electro-acoustic approach. Drawing inspiration from classic stalwarts like the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra as well as pioneering post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky and Tortoise, Argue tastefully incorporates electric guitars, Fender Rhodes and electric bass into traditional big band instrumentation, extending the innovations of such visionaries as Don Ellis, Gil Evans and George Russell.

Straddling the pastoral opulence of Maria Schneider's Orchestra and the visceral brio of Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra and Satoko Fujii's various big bands, Argue has succeeded at creating a magnificent chimera. His harmonically rich blend of contrapuntal horn voicings, atmospheric electronic textures and post-minimalist rhythms surpass the early fusion experiments of his predecessors, yielding a fully integrated sound world as current as it is timeless.

Honing his writing and arranging skills under the tutelage of legendary jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer, Argue balances the voluminous power of a big band with the subtle nuance of a small combo, revealing elegant charts bolstered by dramatic gestures. The braying horns and staccato electric guitars that accompany James Hirschfeld's brash trombone on the visceral finale to "Habeas Corpus" ascend to a logical climax rather than the blustery fanfare of a hackneyed coda. Embracing a full spectrum of moods, the anthemic riffs that accent Ingrid Jensen's probing trumpet solo on "Transit" dynamically contrast with the languid rustic scrim that descends on Sebastian Noelle's psychedelic electric guitar musings on "Redeye."

Periodically summoning the ensemble's full sonic potential, Argue conjures raucous electric guitar interludes, rousing horn swells and pulverizing rhythms to fortify these episodic tunes. His forte, however, is sketching impressionistic vistas such as the Mingus-like Mediterranean blues of "Jacobin Club" or the bucolic tone poem "Redeye." A masterful tunesmith, his dramatic sense of pacing borders on the cinematic, and his instinct for arranging multiple voices into colorful pitch sets exudes kaleidoscopic detail worthy of Ellington.

Secret Society combines rising stars and relative newcomers, but the real star is Argue. The only other contemporary composer who embraces the diverse possibilities of a band this size is Maria Schneider (a fellow Brookmeyer graduate). Although the halcyon days of the big bands are long past, Infernal Machines stands defiant, updating the big band tradition for the new millennium while presenting exciting possibilities for the future.

Track Listing: Phobos; Zeno; Transit; Redeye; Jacobin Club; Habeas Corpus (for Maher Arar); Obsidian Flow.

Personnel: Darcy James Argue: composer, conductor, ringleader; Erica vonKleist: flute, alto flute, soprano and alto saxophones; Rob Wilkerson: flute, clarinet, soprano and alto saxophones; Sam Sadigursky: clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones; Mark Small: clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Josh Sinton: clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone; Seneca Black: lead trumpet; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet; Laurie Frink: trumpet; Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet; Tom Goehring: trumpet; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Mike Fahie: trombone; James Hirschfeld: trombone; Jennifer Wharton: bass trombone; Sebastian Noelle: acoustic and electric guitars; Mike Holober: piano, electric piano; Matt Clohesy: contrabass, electric bass; Jon Wikan: drum set, cajon, pandeiro, miscellaneous percussion.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: New Amsterdam Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 25, 2017
Read Reflections CD/LP/Track Review Reflections
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 25, 2017
Read Back In Your Own Backyard CD/LP/Track Review Back In Your Own Backyard
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 25, 2017
Read Greatest Licks - I Feel Like Singin' CD/LP/Track Review Greatest Licks - I Feel Like Singin'
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 25, 2017
Read Through The Glass CD/LP/Track Review Through The Glass
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 25, 2017
Read Circles CD/LP/Track Review Circles
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2017
Read "Summer Skyshift" CD/LP/Track Review Summer Skyshift
by John Sharpe
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "Greatest Hits" CD/LP/Track Review Greatest Hits
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2016
Read "In Tokyo, Japan" CD/LP/Track Review In Tokyo, Japan
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 16, 2016
Read "Things Are Looking Up" CD/LP/Track Review Things Are Looking Up
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 9, 2016
Read "Live At The Open Gate" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Open Gate
by John Sharpe
Published: August 29, 2016
Read "The Picasso Zone" CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 24, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!