The music was full of large-scale, intricate designs, at times almost manically so. It built on some of the best lessons of Charles Mingus and Bob Brookmeyer, not only in harmony and structure but also in momentum, in moving a piece forward.
But a few other of Mr. Argue’s pieces, including “Induction Effect” and “Habeas Corpus,” established something else about him: he wants his music to make contemporary sense. Thursday’s set established a through line among Mr. Brookmeyer’s adventurous big-band compositions of the ’60s, Steve Reich’s pulse patterns and Tortoise’s new instrumental rock with jazz harmony. There were drones, backbeats, short cyclical figures, clouds of guitar distortion, all of it written into the music and elegantly claiming its place. And so a big, broad musical vocabulary came together easily, without jump-cutting or wrenching shifts of style. Mr. Argue made all these elements belong together naturally.
— Ben Ratliff, New York Times. 02 December 2006. Read full review.
Darcy James Argue's music delights in the anachronism of the big band in a post-punk musical environment.
“When you listen to the music you are transported to a sinister yet beautiful world, a past that never was.”
As the name implies, this big band is calibrated for maximum intrigue, with a style that genuflects to Steve Reich minimalism as well as to orchestral jazz in the descent of Bob Brookmeyer.
— Nate Chinen, New York Times. 25 November 2006. Read full listing.
Later on, downtown, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society opened to the sound of drummer Jon Wikan's new, improved electric cajon, now even spacier. His phase-shifting beat propelled the wiggly guitar figures, rounded clarinets and muted brass that open Argue's "Phobos." Sam Sadigursky blew a passionate solo over a rhythm section that has become scarily good; the climax captured the cinematic sweep of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, all sunburst, breeze and melting joy.
Every time his players finished a number, Argue wore what looked like a slightly incredulous smile, as if the bandleader couldn't quite believe what he'd gotten away with. This I could understand: Argue's charts are smart and tuneful, tough on players, and incredibly gracious to listeners. And some bright publisher should be pushing his compositions to college jazz bands -- hard. I know I'd have killed to play music like this.
Top Live Shows (Time Out NY)
There's surely no more quixotic occupation in jazz than big-band leader. Most gigs don't pay nearly enough to support 18 players, let alone rehearse them regularly. Lucky for us, there's always been a handful of artists willing to tilt at windmills, intoxicated by a large ensemble's broad palette and dynamic heft. The latest leader to create a stir downtown is Darcy James Argue.
— Steve Smith, Time Out New York. 13 April 2006. Read full article.
The concert more than proved that Argue is a stunningly skilled bandleader who steers an ensemble stocked fat with exceptional players -- Will Vinson, Erica vonKleist and Jon Wikan, especially. Argue's charts serve notice of a sophisticated composer, one who knows his Stravinsky and Ligeti as well as his Bob Graettinger and Thad Jones. I look forward to hearing more from this band...
Darcy James Argue's big band skillfully realizes the leader's mature, emotive compositions and thick arrangements.
— Hank Shteamer, Time Out New York. 19 January 2006.