Weekend Extra: Catching Up With Darcy James Argue

It has been too long since we checked to see what Darcy James Argue and his band of young New Yorkers—The Darcy-James-Argue-03Secret Society—have been up to. When we first took notice of Argue and his crew, they were indeed still pretty much a secret. Since then, the band has won awards in several polls. Argue, a Canadian who transplanted from Vancouver to New York, has been singled out for his compositions and arrangements. College and high school jazz and stage bands interested in performing music of their own generation adopt many of his charts.

Of Argue’s and graphic novelist Danijel Zezelj’s ambitious multi-media project Brooklyn Bablyon, Ben Ratliff of The New York Times wrote,

It is heavily planned, built of thick shadows and big-band polyphony, and it took both composer and artist most of a year to create.

This trailer gives you an idea of the work’s complexity and scale.

As for Argue’s more “conventional” big band work, here is the Secrety Society’s performance of his “Transit” in a concert at Washington, DC’s, Kennedy Center. The trumpet soloist is David Smith. A list of the band members follows the video.

David DeJesus, 
Rob Wilkerson, 
Sam Sadigursky, 
Mark Small, 
Josh Sinton.

 Seneca Black, 
Tom Goehring, 
Matt Holman
, Nadje Noordhuis, 
David Smith.

 Noah Bless, 
Tim Sessions, 
Kevin Moehringer, 
Jennifer Wharton.

Sebastian Noelle.

Piano and keyboard: 
Red Wierenga.

Matt Clohesy.

 Jon Wikan.

Those are members of what what not so long ago was thought of as the Brooklyn and downtown New York underground. They have surfaced as some of the most notable new jazz players of the decade.

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  1. Ken Pickering says

    Darcy just performed a historic double bill with legendary Vancouver band leader John Korsrud’s Hard Rubber Orchestra (John commissioned Darcy to write a 35 minute piece, “Tensile Curves.”) It was an unbelievable evening at the opening night of our festival*#151;June 20 2014. Here’s a few random thoughts on our opening day/night, including HRO and Darcy Jame’s Argue’s Secret Society.

  2. Peter Levin says

    I caught the first (and superb) Secret Society set of two at Jazz Standard in New York City Tuesday evening. While the second set was a performance of Brooklyn Babylon, the first consisted of unrecorded works (with the exception of the finale), and a list of some of the titles and inspirations should give you an idea of the range of the composer:

    “Ferromagnetic” (an unhappy tribute to American military contracting).
    “All In” (for the late trumpet whiz, teacher and potter, Laurie Frink).
    “Codebreaker” (in honor of Alan Turing, and written for the West Point Jazz Knights).
    “Last Waltz for Levon” (Helm, best known as the drummer/vocalist) for The Band)

    For an even better idea of Argue’s landscape, here are his thoughts on Last Waltz for Levon–and how it evolved from a tribute to Dave Brubeck (he said Tuesday that he still hopes to come up with one of those):


    For a more technical discussion, of Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” and Gunther Schuller’s errors in transcribing it, see:


    Argue’s respect for and references to all kinds of music may one day land his own work the Duke’s ultimate accolade—beyond category.