Darcy James Argue: Big Band Steampunk


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Secret Society Personnel

  • Winds: Erika VonKleist, Rob Wilkerson, Sam Sadigursky, Mark Small, Josh Sinton
  • Trumpets and Flugelhorns: Seneca Black, Laurie Frink, Tom Goehring, Nadje Noordhuis, Ingrid Jensen
  • Trombones: Mike Fahie, Ryan Keberle, Jennifer Wharton, James Hirschfeld
  • Rhythm: Sebastian Noelle (guitar), Mike Holober (piano and Rhodes), Matt Clohesy (acoustic and electric bass), Jon Wikan (drums and percussion)
  • Composer and Conductor: Darcy James Argue

I discovered Darcy James Argue's Secret Society the way many people fall into new music — getting it for free (legally, I might add) on the Internet. Like pianist Ethan Iverson from The Bad Plus and trumpeter Dave Douglas, Argue is one of a small coterie of musician bloggers in the jazz field.

Darcy James Argue (300)

Darcy James Argue came up with the "steampunk big band" handle when he realized he was investing an old idea with new technology. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Argue is a Canadian-born composer who currently lives in Brooklyn, a petri dish for New York's talented young musicians. He studied with trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, one of the most demanding and exacting teachers of big-band orchestration and composition, and later with two of the modern innovators of large ensemble writing, Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck.

For years, Argue has been releasing field recordings of Secret Society performances online, and he's let regular people like me download them for free. I was intrigued enough to see the band one night at Bowery Poetry Club. That night, 18 musicians crammed onto a tiny stage for little to no pay. They were there to play some of the freshest new big-band music in New York. Argue was conducting in a plain white T-shirt, and the music of Secret Society commanded every bit of my attention.

Since that time, I've counted myself a steadfast supporter of the cause. In Darcy James Argue's nomenclature, that makes me a co-conspirator. WBGO contributed to the production of these songs, which are part of the new Darcy James Argue recording, Infernal Machines. I hope you enjoy this music as much as I do.

Recorded Dec. 15-17, 2008, at Bennett Studios, N.J.

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