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Darcy James Argue

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Biography of Darcy James Argue

Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer 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). Secret Society 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 the Brooklyn 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.

Argue’s awards and commissions include the Jazz Gallery’s Large Ensemble Commissioning Series, the BMI Charlie Parker Composition Prize/Manny Albam Commission, the SOCAN/IAJE Emerging Jazz Composer Award, the SOCAN Award for Composition, the Down Beat Student Music Award, and grants from Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, and the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition to his own groups, Argue’s music has been performed by the BMI New York Jazz Orchestra, the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, the University of North Texas Jazz Repertory Ensemble, the NEC Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, the McGill Jazz Orchestra, and others.

Argue was mentored by legendary jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer. He has also studied with Lee Hyla, Randall Woolf, Maria Schneider, and John Hollenbeck. He maintains a lively blog at secretsociety.typepad.com, which features commentary, photos, and live recordings.

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