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Darcy James Argue

Darcy James Argue, “one of the top big band composers of our time”(Stereophile), is best known for Secret Society, an 18-piece group “renowned in the jazz world” (New York Times). Argue brings an outwardly anachronistic ensemble into the 21st century through his “ability to combine his love of jazz’s past with more contemporary sonics” and is celebrated as “a syncretic creator who avoids obvious imitation” (Pitchfork).

Acclaimed as an “innovative composer, arranger, and big band leader” by The New Yorker, Argue’s accolades include multiple GRAMMY nominations and a Latin GRAMMY Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Doris Duke Artist Award, and countless commissions and fellowships. His prescient 2016 Real Enemies, an album-length exploration of the politics of paranoia, was named one of the 20 best jazz albums of the decade by Stereogum. Like Real Enemies, Argue’s previous recordings — his debut Infernal Machines and his follow-up, Brooklyn Babylon — were nominated for both GRAMMY and JUNO awards.

The long-awaited fourth Secret Society album, Dynamic Maximum Tension, coming in 2023, is named after the three words that inventor and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller combined to form his personal brand: “Dymaxion” — a term reflecting Bucky’s desire to get the most out of his materials, the utopian vision of his designs, and his quest to improve the pattern of daily life. In composing the music for this recording, Argue found optimism and creative renewal in Fuller’s extraordinary prescience as an early proponent of wind and wave power, and in his timelessly futuristic designs inspired by the geometry of the natural world.

Argue’s affinity for blurring genres and deftly weaving sociopolitical ideas into ambitious, culturally resonant work is exemplified in the “stunningly original” (Wall Street Journal) song cycle Ogresse, a collaboration with GRAMMY-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, and in the multimedia performance Real Enemies, a “breathtaking” (JazzNu) production co-created with writer-director Isaac Butler and filmmaker Peter Nigrini that premiered in 2015 at the BAM Next Wave Festival.

Secret Society maintains a busy touring schedule, with European, Canadian, and South American tours, global festival performances, and five appearances at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival. In addition to Secret Society, Argue has toured with the Danish Radio Big Band, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, the Cologne Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra. He was featured in the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos’ international Jazz Composers Forum and has led performances of his music by the WDR Big Band, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, The Hard Rubber Orchestra, Clasijazz Big Band Pro, and the West Point Jazz Knights.

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72 Jazz Thrillers

The Most Exciting Jazz Albums since 1969: 2009-2011

Read "The Most Exciting Jazz Albums since 1969: 2009-2011" reviewed by Robert Middleton


The six jazz thrillers for this week are widely diverse--from a big band outlier, a soaring two-sax front line and an expression of the ideas from an esoteric teacher. What they all have in common are their thrilling cohesiveness, gripping rhythms and compelling melodies. 72 Thrilling Jazz Albums, Part 8: 2009-20011 43 Infernal Machines Darcy James Argue New Amsterdam 2009 Thrilling jazz albums are rarely an accident; they emerge from dedicated ...

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Radio & Podcasts

Darcy James Argue, Miho Hazama, Steve Lehman, Pascal Le Boeuf & More

Read "Darcy James Argue, Miho Hazama, Steve Lehman, Pascal Le Boeuf & More" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu


Large ensembles, big bands, orchestras... A playlist replete of successful experiments in the art of more is more... Happy listening! Playlist Ben Allison “Mondo Jazz Theme (feat. Ted Nash & Pyeng Threadgill)" 0:00 Chuck Owen, WDR Big Band ..."And Your Point Is" Renderings (MAMA) 0:16 Host talks 9:00 Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra “Sp68" Family (We Jazz) 10:03 Host talks 16:20 Miho Hazama “Exoplanet Suite: III. Planet Nine" m_unit: Beyond Orbits (Edition) 19:26 Steve Lehman, Orchestre ...

Album Review

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension

Read "Dynamic Maximum Tension" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi


Precursore nel 2009 (con l'innovativo Infernal Machines) del nuovo rinascimento orchestrale nel jazz, Darcy James Argue approda all'etichetta Nonesuch e pubblica il nuovo album in studio: un doppio CD realizzato con i consueti partner della Secret Society più l'aggiunta della cantante Cecile McLorin Salvant e della violinista Sara Caswell. A differenza degli ultimi due dischi, Dynamic Maximum Tension non è un'opera multimediale ma conserva la spinta visionaria animata dalla costante riflessione socio-politica. Spinta che si traduce in ...

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Play This!

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Missing Parts

Read "Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Missing Parts" reviewed by Mike Jacobs


Like a few others (such as Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck), Darcy James Argue seems bent on expanding the musical envelope of the big band via the instrumentation, repertoire and approach of his Secret Society. Though this piece from their 2013 Brooklyn Babylon project was designed to be heard in tandem with the highly stylized visuals of graphic artist Danijel Zezelj, it soon becomes clear that music is also plenty evocative on its own. ...

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Album Review

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension

Read "Dynamic Maximum Tension" reviewed by Katchie Cartwright


Darcy James Argue's superb double-album Nonesuch debut offers compositions written throughout his career. He turns to twentieth-century thinkers for “ideas that can help us in the present, that we can reexamine and reconfigure for our own purposes." These include futurist designer Buckminster Fuller, cryptanalyst-computer scientist Alan Turing, composer-arranger Bob Brookmeyer, actress-screenwriter Mae West, trumpeter-mentor Laurie Frink, and musician-beyond-category Duke Ellington, among others. Like West, Argue seems to control his own path. He may not yet be the tycoon she was, ...

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Live Review

Chicago Jazz Festival 2018

Read "Chicago Jazz Festival 2018" reviewed by Patrick Burnette


Chicago Jazz Festival Chicago, IL August 29-September 2, 2018 A Beginner's Guide to the Chicago Jazz Festival The Chicago Jazz Festival is a free event scheduled each Labor Day weekend and offering over fifty concerts in various outdoor venues. The 40th edition--running from August 29 to September 3, 2018--is now in the books. If you attended this year--or in recent years past--you already have a pretty good idea whether or not the Chicago Jazz ...

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Album Review

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Real Enemies

Read "Real Enemies" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi


Real Enemies, la performance multimediale che Darcy James Argue ha presentato in varie occasioni nell'ultimo anno, ci consente di apprezzare con la dovuta concentrazione la multiforme ricchezza dei suoi percorsi. A sette anni dal debutto con Infernal Machine (seguito nel 2012 da Brooklyn Babylon) l'arrangiatore canadese conferma d'essere il massimo orchestratore emerso nel decennio, un artista visionario e inventivo come pochi. Il nuovo progetto tratta le teorie cospirative sviluppatesi negli Stati Uniti, presentando un percorso che integra musica, ...

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Performance / Tour

Darcy James Argue To Tour Canada With His 18-piece Big Band Secret Society

Darcy James Argue To Tour Canada With His 18-piece Big Band Secret Society

Source: Vivo Musique Internationale

First Canadian performances by JUNO and GRAMMY® nominated ensemble Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Canadian-born Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece big band Secret Society will embark on a four-city tour of prominent Canadian jazz festivals during the month of June, 2011. These are the first Canadian appearances for Secret Society, an ensemble that includes four other Canadian musicians who now make New York their home: Ingrid Jensen, trumpet (Vancouver/Nanaimo), David Smith, trumpet (Toronto), Mike Fahie, trombone (Ottawa) and Gordon Webster, ...

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Performance / Tour

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society Returns to Iridium September 22nd

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society Returns to Iridium September 22nd

Source: Improvised Communications

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society will follow-up its highly regarded appearance at CareFusion Jazz Festival Newport with a two-set performance at Iridium Jazz Club in New York. This event, the 18-piece ensemble's second appearance at the venue and first gig in New York since its debut at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (pictured above) in June during CareFusion Jazz Festival New York, is part of a month-long big band series curated by trumpeter/composer David Weiss. Sets begin at ...

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Festival

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at Carefusion Jazz Festival Newport August 7th

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at Carefusion Jazz Festival Newport August 7th

Source: Improvised Communications

Two weeks from tomorrow, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and special guest Bob Brookmeyer will perform on the Harbor Stage at CareFusion Jazz Festival Newport. “Mr. Wein asked if I might like to invite my compositional mentor, Bob Brookmeyer, to play a tune with us at Newport," recalls Argue, who just topped the Big Band Rising Star, Composer Rising Star and Arranger Rising Star categories in the DownBeat Critics Poll. “I ran the idea by Bob and he accepted, so ...

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Performance / Tour

Darcy James Argue Sells Out!

Darcy James Argue Sells Out!

Source: Inverted Garden by Eric Benson

That's right, the indie jazz world's favorite composer/conductor is taking his Reign-of-Terror–loving, Extraordinary Renditions–hating act from the halls of Williamsburg and the Bowery to Wynton's Jazz Palace in the Sky. To quote the man himself, “Zounds!"

In all seriousness, this is great news—a marker of Secret Society's recent successes and JALC's expanding horizons. Argue's Dizzy's Club gig will come as part of the new CareFusion Jazz Fesitval, a rebooted and vastly improved version of the bloated JVC Jazz Festival that ...

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Radio

The Jazz Session #121: Darcy James Argue

The Jazz Session #121: Darcy James Argue

Source: Michael Ricci


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Recording

CD: Darcy James Argue

CD: Darcy James Argue

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam). Can generations nurtured on rock and roll learn to love music by a band configured like one out of the swing era? The answer delivered in this work of imagination, daring and resourcefulness is yes. Argue's textures, harmonies and uses of space and time place him alongside Maria Schneider, Ed Partyka and John Hollenbeck among intriguing young composer-leaders of the new century. His music incorporates funk, spunk and the brashness of ...

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Recording

Darcy James Argue's Infernal Machines is Now Available

Darcy James Argue's Infernal Machines is Now Available

Source: Improvised Communications

Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), the debut studio recording from New York's acclaimed 18-piece steampunk big band, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, is now available.

The release takes its name from a John Philip Sousa quote about the dangers of music technology, and features new definitive studio recordings of material Argue and the band have been developing since their first gig in 2005.

“...Argue has succeeded at creating a magnificent chimera. His harmonically rich blend of contrapuntal horn voicings, atmospheric ...

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Performance / Tour

Tonight: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society @ Galapagos 10 PM

Tonight: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society @ Galapagos 10 PM

Source: All About Jazz

Undiscovered Islands: Week One Tonight! 10:00 PM · Galapagos Art Space Darcy James Argue's Secret Society celebrating the release of Infernal Machines on New Amsterdam Records “Infernal Machines [is] a seven track marvel of imagination." --Time Out New York “a fully integrated sound world as current as it is timeless" --All About Jazz “one of the finest jazz records I've truly ever heard." --The Big City 7:00-9:30 - Kickoff party @ Rebar 10:00 Darcy James Argue's ...

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Interview

Composer/Bandleader Darcy James Argue Interviewed at AAJ

Composer/Bandleader Darcy James Argue Interviewed at AAJ

Source: All About Jazz

Influenced by some of the best composers and arrangers around, composer/bandleader Darcy James Argue and his group, The Secret Society, are fast becoming not-so-secret. He's garnered critical praise from just about everyone who has heard the band. Like Maria Schneider, Argue does not play his instrument (piano), but leads the band with all-original music that has influences not only from jazz, but rock, alternative and any music that he feels has something to draw from.

His isn't a band playing ...

“Infernal Machines stands defiant, updating the big band tradition for the new millennium while presenting exciting possibilities for the future." —Troy Collins, All About Jazz "A big, broad musical vocabulary came together easily, without jump-cutting or wrenching shifts of style. Mr. Argue made all these elements belong together naturally." —Ben Ratliff, New York Times

"Clearly some of the most ambitious and compelling sounds I've ever encountered in the past 40 years." —Juan Rodriguez, Montreal Gazette

"The music was full of large-scale, intricate designs [...] built on some of the best lessons of Charles Mingus and Bob Brookmeyer, not only in harmony and structure but also in momentum, in moving a piece forward. [...]. A big, broad musical vocabulary came together easily, without jump-cutting or wrenching shifts of style. Mr. Argue made all these elements belong together naturally." —Ben Ratliff, New York Times

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Primary Instrument

Composer / conductor

Location

New York City

Credentials/Background

Composition, arranging, orchestration, theory, songwriting, ear training, music notation software (Finale & Sibelius)

Clinic/Workshop Information

Composition, arranging, orchestration, music notation software (Finale & Sibelius)

Jihye Lee
composer / conductor
Beth McKenna
saxophone, tenor
Devin Reilly
composer / conductor
Billy Marrows
guitar, electric

Photos

Concerts

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Dynamic Maximum...

Nonesuch Records
2023

buy

Real Enemies

New Amsterdam Records
2016

buy

Brooklyn Babylon

New Amsterdam Records
2014

buy

Brooklyn Babylon

New Amsterdam Records
2013

buy

Infernal Machines

New Amsterdam Records
2010

buy

Infernal Machines

New Amsterdam Records
2009

buy

Zeno

From: Infernal Machines
By Darcy James Argue

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