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Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound: Not Two

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Much has been written about Amir ElSaffar's Iraqi-American background and the influence that birthright has had on his music. The demographics, however, do little to prepare the ear for the exotic and completely distinctive sound that he creates. ElSaffar's Western and Middle Eastern amalgam of disciplines had best manifested itself in his sextet, the Two Rivers Ensemble. His Rivers of Sound ensemble of seventeen players expands ElSaffar's musical reach to incorporate a broader global perspective on Not Two.There ...

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Will Mason Ensemble: Beams of the Huge Night

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New York City resident Will Mason, while pursuing a Ph.D. in music at Columbia University, took the time to submerge himself in the most Spartan and remote conditions of his native Maine for the inspirations of nature that become manifest in Beams of the Huge Night. The drummer and composer assembled an unusually populated septet to give life to a generous sixty-six minutes of sound and music, capturing the volatility and tranquility of true seclusion. Mason, who also ...

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Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Brooklyn Babylon

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Part of the audience engagement process in multimedia performance is the integral dynamic of conflict and resolution between forms. Take one of them away and you have a different sensory experience. So, having witnessed graphic artist Danijel Zezelj and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society create separate but integrated works of art in the live performance of Brooklyn Babylon, it's challenging to antedate expectations around what may seem to be one part of an equation. However, Argue's release of the suite ...

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Sam Sadigursky: Words Project III Miniatures

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There is something of genius in Sam Sadigursky's musical poeticizing. Indeed, besides his knack for casting the most uncanny yet perfect voices for his eclectic and at times Kafka-esque sets, the Brooklyn-based reedman/composer is rapidly becoming the beacon of modern jazz-informed musical prosody. In this capacity, he replenishes the dormant format with a daring, integrated approach to composition, cadence and arranging, while remaining creatively respectful towards the texts he sets to music. As unsettling as some of his arrangements may ...

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Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines

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A little more than a decade ago, Maria Schneider served notice that big band jazz was no longer the domain of our grandparents. She has gone on to own the genre and now, Brooklyn resident and star Schneider pupil, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society takes it to an exceptional place with his debut, Infernal Machines. What is exceptional is how true to the pure nature of jazz this collection is; full of innovation, creativity, and bold, daring departures from the ...

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Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines

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From the first listening of this album, it is clear that Darcy James Argue intends to make a strong statement about the boundaries of musical genres--of jazz and new music--as well as about musical aesthetics and technology. This album consists of Argue's compositions for “big band" (or “large ensemble," depending on whom you ask) with a dark, modernistic edge; most numbers contain pulsating drumbeats and wildly spiraling minor and diminished harmonies. An electric guitar, often distorted, also pops up here ...

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Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines

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What's a guy to do when he has aspirations to form a big band in this day and age? Certainly the odds are against him; for one thing, there isn't much of a market for it, and the cost of taking that many musicians on the road (much less paying them) can be cost prohibitive. But if you're Darcy James Argue, you say to hell with it and form a big band anyway. The result is the Secret Society and ...

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Darcy James Argue: Infernal Machines

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Desiring to be ensconced in an environment of music is a dream. Dreams can come true. And Darcy James Argue's band, Secret Society, catches those dreams in its first recorded effort. Taking its title from how John Philip Sousa described the phonograph at the turn of the 20th century, Infernal Machines articulates Argue's music well, in an orchestral mode, employing striking instrumental riffs, exquisite solos and exhibiting multi-instrumental, multi-faceted unity.

The musical hooks in this record are exceedingly strong. Starting ...

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Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines

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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 Phillip Sousa on the dangers of technological music advancements, Argue's Secret Society nonetheless embraces the future, eschewing ...

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Sam Sadigursky: Words Project II

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Multi-instrumentalist Sam Sadigursky has released the second of his Words Projects, wherein musicians and like-minded vocalists present poetry in a beat-cum-back to the future manner. This is not your grandfather's poems read over a bongo but is creative integration of vocals into an instrumental fabric. Sadigursky's saxophones and clarinet as well as Pete Rende's piano/Rhodes and accordion thoroughly blend with the vocals to create a “'reading" true to the overall meter and phrasing of the poem(s). Nate ...

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Sam Sadigursky: Words Project II

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"On the dark and difficult path you have chosen, you sometimes lose your way." As if by premonition, the opening phrase from New York City-based reedman/composer Sam Sadigursky's Words Project II not only summarizes its leader's against-the-grain approach, but the album's less conclusive result than the initial The Words Project (New Amsterdam, 2007). In the first installment, selected texts from Mark Boog, Osip Mandelshtam and Sylvia Plath offered glimpses of his penchant for putting listeners ill-at-ease and confronting them with ...

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Sam Sadigursky: The Words Project

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Ambition is good. It focuses the mind towards a distant goal, keeping it pointed in the correct direction. When artistic ambition is combined with the talent to fulfill the plan, something special is bound to happen. The Words Project is reedman Sam Sadigursky's leadership debut, and that he chose to mix words and music is ambition of the highest order. That it succeeds so completely is a tribute to the faith Sadigursky had in his vision. Music ...