DARCY JAMES ARGUE is one of today’s most talked-about jazz musicians thanks to the phenomenal critical response to Infernal Machines, his Grammy-nominated debut recording featuring his 18-piece bigband, Secret Society. The record was included on more than 100 best-of-the year lists and won Best Debut honors in the prestigious Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll. Argue and Secret Society have topped the Rising Star category in the DownBeatCritics Poll for the past three years, and have won Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards for Large Ensemble of the Year and Up & Coming Artist of the Year. The group has played high-profile concerts in New York and other North American cities, as well as in Europe.
Critics have credited him with developing “a nearly perfect creative synthesis between tradition and innovation” (John Eyles, BBC.com), calling his compositions “ambitious, sprawling, mesmerizing” (Juan Rodriguez, Montreal Gazette) and noting his “big, broad musical vocabulary” (Ben Ratliff, New York Times).Time Out New York’s Hank Shteamer adds, “Argue draws on the full spectrum of modern rock, jazz and classical music” in a way that “handily transcends pastiche.”
Formed in 2005, Secret Society evokes an alternate musical history in which the dance orchestras that ruled the Swing Era never went extinct, but remained a popular and vital part of the evolving musical landscape. Adopting a steampunk-inspired attitude towards the traditional big band, Argue refashions this well-worn instrumentation into a cutting-edge ensemble. The band’s first studio recording, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records) is described by Newsweek’s Seth Colter Walls as “a wholly original take on big band’s past, present and future” and Time Out New York’s David R. Adler awarded it five stars, proclaiming it “a seven-track marvel of imagination.” In his feature article on Argue for the Village Voice, Richard Gehr called it “maximalist music of impressive complexity and immense entertainment value, in your face and then in your head.”
During the 2011 BAM Next Wave Festival, Secret Society premiered Brooklyn Babylon, an hour-long production combining live music, live painting, and animation, co-created by Argue with visual artist Danijel Zezelj. The work was pronounced “a new multimedia masterpiece” and “destined to be considered a classic” by David Krasnow, host of PRI’s Studio 360. The band’s recent Canadian tour drew praise for its “brilliant soundscapes” (J.D. Considine, Globe and Mail) and “gorgeous musical details, maneuvers and transformations” (Peter Hum,Ottawa Citizen). Their London Jazz Festival debut was declared “a contender for gig of the year” by John L. Waters in The Guardian, and their performance at the famed Moers Festival in Germany was hailed by the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger’s Martin Woltersdorf as “one of the highlights of the 38th annual festival.” Argue’s “lush and sweeping arrangements” were singled out for praise in Ken Franckling’s 2010 Newport Jazz Festival round-up for JazzTimes.
A native of Vancouver, and former member of the Montreal jazz scene, Argue moved to Brooklyn in 2003 after earning a Master’s Degree in Boston while studying with legendary composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer. His awards include the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop Charlie Parker Composition Prize and the SOCAN/CAJE Phil Nimmons Emerging Composer Award and he has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, the American Music Center, Meet The Composer, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the Canada Council for the Arts.