Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer-bandleader Darcy James Argue is the ringleader behind SECRET SOCIETY, an 18-piece steampunk bigband that envisions an alternative musical history — one in which the dance orchestras that ruled the Swing Era never went extinct, but continued to evolve with the times, remaining a vital part of the musical landscape straight through the present day. Argue’s compositions bring together “a big, broad musical vocabulary” (New York Times), one which invokes “Duke Ellington and minimalism and Tortoise and Funkadelic and Elliott Carter and much else besides melding into one floating, shifting, dodging music” (zoilus.com).
Secret Society includes powerful soloists like Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Sam Sadigursky (saxophones), and Ryan Keberle (trombone), and is anchored by the “scarily good” (nightafternight.com) rhythm section of Matt Clohesy (bass) and Jon Wikan (drums). The group headlined a night at the 2008 New Languages Festival, a performance All About Jazz called “the highlight of the evening.” They have performed at a variety of venues around NYC, including Le Poisson Rouge, the Jazz Gallery, the Living Theatre, Makor, Flux Factory, and the Bowery Poetry Club, and recently completed a tour of Eastern Canada.
Argue has made international appearances at the Cologne Jazz Festival and the International Association for Jazz Education Conference in Toronto. He is also a founding member of the New York composers’ federation Pulse, who have presented projects featuring John Abercrombie, John McNeil, and Pete McCann. He was selected for the Brooklyn Philharmonic Composer Mentorship Program, and his work Body Double, for string quartet and tapan, was premiered by percussionist Svet Stoyanov and members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic at the the Music Off The Walls series at theBrooklyn Museum. Argue penned the arrangements for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s collaborations with jazz-soul songstress Lizz Wright, alt-country artist Shelby Lynne, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Secret Society’s debut album, Infernal Machines, was released by New Amsterdam Records in May 2009, and was met with widespread critical acclaim. The album was called “addictive not only for its architecture, but for its fetching way with color” (DownBeat), “a wickedly intelligent dispatch from the fading border between orchestral jazz and post-rock and classical minimalism” (New York Times), and “maximalist music of impressive complexity and immense entertainment value” (Village Voice). Infernal Machines also garnered a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Large Ensemble Album, among placement on over 70 best-of-2009 lists.