Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Darcy James Argue

Award-winning Brooklyn-based composer Darcy James Argue is the leader of New York’s acclaimed 18-piece steampunk big band, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.

“My music for Secret Society,” Argue explains, “essentially comes out of me imagining an alternate reality where big bands were still widely popular (instead of a curious anachronism), and where jazz was still on speaking terms with other musical genres. What if you had this contemporary big band that had a shared sonic vocabulary with bands like Tortoise or TV On The Radio? What would that sound like?”

Despite the inherent obstacles facing a big band leader in 2009, Argue is one of the most visible and respected musicians in New York. Part of that success comes from the broad-spectrum popularity of his blog, also called Secret Society, which covers relevant political issues as well as musical ones. Musically, as’s R.J. Deluke recently observed, “He’s garnered critical praise from just about everyone who has heard the band.”

Critics have called him “a young jazz master” (The New Yorker) and noted his penchant for “mixing jazz harmony, rock edge and postmodern angst into a new music creole” (Tom Greenland, AllAboutJazz-New York). “The morning after,” declared Montreal Gazette reviewer Juan Rodriguez, “I was still stunned at what I’d heard-clearly some of the most ambitious and compelling sounds I’ve ever encountered in the past 40 years.”

Argue, a native of Vancouver, first made a name for himself as part of the Montreal jazz scene before moving to Boston in 2000 to study with legendary jazz composer, Bob Brookmeyer. A veteran of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, he moved to New York three years later, and immediately began seeking out performers to make his distinctive vision for a modern-day big band a reality.

His extensive resume also includes arranging work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra featuring jazz/soul vocalist Lizz Wright, alt-country artist Shelby Lynne and the Klezmer Conservatory Band. The recipient of a variety of commissions and composition awards, Argue will accept his latest, the SOCAN/CAJE Phil Nimmons Emerging Composer Award, in May 2009 at Canada’s National Jazz Awards in Toronto.