If you wanted to throw a huge dance party tonight, you could call up a DJ and bring in a sound system, but one 34-year-old jazz musician wonders, why not bring in a big band, as you might have in the past? Darcy James Argue leads an 18-piece big band. He's also a writer. His blog has become a popular jazz Web site.

Patrick Jarenwattananon has this profile.

PATRICK JARENWATTANANON: Jazz composer Darcy James Argue did not start out to be a blogger.

Mr. DARCY JAMES ARGUE (Founder, Secret Society; Jazz Composer): Mainly, I started because I need an easy-to-put-together Web site for the band. But I mean, you know, like, we're kind of a two-blogging apartment here. My girlfriend has a political blog that she had started, and I started to get jealous. And hers is much more popular than mine.

JARENWATTANANON: Argue writes frequently about jazz and modern music with forays into politics and pop culture. But his site also functions as an information hub for his band, Secret Society.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

JARENWATTANANON: Argue's posted downloadable recordings of nearly every gig that Secret Society has ever played, over 30 sets in all.

Mr. PETER HUM (Arts Editor, Ottawa Citizen): Isn't that the drug-dealer model, where you give away a bit of your product for free, and then the people get hooked, and then they come back, and they want more, and they're willing to pay for it?

JARENWATTANANON: Peter Hum is an arts editor for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, where he, too, carries a blog about jazz.

Mr. HUM: His Web site just struck me as a really cool place to go and learn about jazz through the eyes and ears of someone who's really out there doing it in New York.

JARENWATTANANON: Nearly four years after Secret Society's first gig - in the basement of the New York rock club CBGB - Darcy James Argue has finally released "Infernal Machines," his band's first studio album.

(Soundbite of music)

JARENWATTANANON: Argue says he waited so long to make an album because he wanted to perfect the details. It's not cheap to record an 18-piece big band, so Argue turned to his listeners for help. He set up a fund where fans could make tax deductible contributions and asked his blog's readers to contribute.

Mr. ARGUE: That's, like, my least favorite thing to do on the blog, you know? NPR, I'm sure you can relate; no one's going to like doing the pledge drives.

JARENWATTANANON: Argue says he was overwhelmed by the response, even though it only came out to a little over 10 percent of the recording budget. He is funding the remainder of it through his day job as a music copyist.

Mr. ARGUE: I have various clients that I prepare music for, and I transcribe stuff as well. I actually had a kind of a funny gig for the CK One fragrance.

(Soundbite of CK One advertisement)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man (Singer): (Singing) We are, we are, we are. We are one.

Mr. ARGUE: They wanted the transcription of the jingle that they use in their ads into music notation. So any time I get a chance to do one of those, I will, because it means that I can then afford to do more Secret Society work.

(Soundbite of music)

JARENWATTANANON: Secret Society isn't just any jazz big band. The music is informed by the science fiction subgenre called Steampunk, which envisions a future where steam power is still today's dominant technology.

Mr. ARGUE: For me, the core of what was in Steampunk was this kind of creative referencing of the past and using that as a lens to comment on the present. So we've got this antiquated music technology, the big band.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ARGUE: There is something beautiful about the possibilities of having that many musicians and kind of reverse engineering taking and saying, well, what would it be like to try and play like studio crafted rock with this kind of swing era technology?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. INGRID JENSEN (Musician): It goes from anywhere from ethereal and spacey to very, very deep grunge-rock-techno, et cetera.

JARENWATTANANON: Ingrid Jensen has played trumpet and flugelhorn in Secret Society since the band's first gigs.

Ms. JENSEN: It feels like the feeling I had when I used to play in these great swing bands where they really swung. But in this case, it's more like really rocking out.

(Soundbite of music)

JARENWATTANANON: Darcy James Argue isn't afraid to embrace the pop and rock of today along with the music of great big band composers. If anything, he says, today's jazz musicians should be doing it more.

Mr. ARGUE: The thing is, I'm a white guy from the West Coast in my early 30s. If I have a culture, it's grungy guitars and kind of minor key chord progressions. So I never really considered making music that didn't involve that in some way.

JARENWATTANANON: Darcy James Argue's approach to big band music might also help unsuspecting listeners, those who wander into the rock clubs Secret Society sometimes plays and see 18 music stands and just one guitar.

Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You can find more of the interview with Darcy James Argue at NPR's new jazz publication, A Blog Supreme. It's at

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from