Acclaimed as a “state-of-the art” (New York Times) large ensemble “taking big band expression to its highest level” (DownBeat) and “a thrilling new direction for big-band jazz” (Stereophile), Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society has embarked on European, Canadian, and South American tours and thrilled audiences at the world’s leading jazz festivals, including five appearances at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival. Praise continues to roll in for the group’s “startling virtuosity” (Pitchfork), “slashing fury and awesome full-ensemble precision” (New York City Jazz Record), “brilliant soundscapes” (Globe and Mail) and “gorgeous musical details, maneuvers and transformations” (Ottawa Citizen). Their London Jazz Festival debut was declared “a contender for gig of the year” by The Guardian, and the group has been named Big Band of the Year in the DownBeat International Critics’ Poll.
Ogresse is a darkly romantic musical fairytale blending myth and song, written by award-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and arranged and conducted by Darcy James Argue. A “stunningly original epic that draws on myriad musical genres” (Wall Street Journal) Argue’s arrangements for an unconventional 13-piece chamber ensemble create a hybrid sound-world that draws from jazz, bluegrass, Baroque opera, and more. The Ottawa Citizen proclaims Ogresse “a song cycle filled with longing, love, betrayal, and drama… totally engaging… a flawless performance.”
Based on in-depth research into the history, aesthetics, and psychology of conspiracy, Real Enemies is an evening-length, multimedia, jazz-fueled exploration of American paranoia. This “visual and auditive spectacle without precedent” (JazzNu) comes from the creative team of Darcy James Argue, filmmaker Peter Nigrini and writer Isaac Butler, who together chronicle a shadow history of post-war America. With “harrowing prescience” (The Nation), Real Enemies combines original film and live music to investigate America’s fascination with conspiracy theories and their role in contemporary culture and politics. Equal parts rollicking concert, impressionist documentary and lyric essay, Real Enemies is at the vanguard of both music theater and hybrid nonfiction: “a work of furious ambition that feels deeply in tune with our present moment” (New York Times).
Co-created by Darcy James Argue and visual artist Danijel Žeželj, Brooklyn Babylon is “a masterpiece… a new work of originality, power, and beauty” (Studio 360) that combines live instrumental music, animation, and live painting to tell a fable about the tallest tower in the world being constructed in the heart of futuristic Brooklyn. The music is “swaggering… haunting… startlingly original” (DownBeat) and seamlessly compliments the visual aesthetic, combining and juxtaposing influences from Balkan brass bands to indie dance-punk. The animation follows characters through a vast metropolis where past, present, and future melt together in a decaying urban labyrinth, creating “an impressive narrative that offers visual splendor and musical majesty… a tour de force” (Huffington Post).
Darcy James Argue has headlined international jazz festivals leading acclaimed ensembles including the Danish Radio Big Band, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Cologne Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, and the Hard Rubber Orchestra. He has helmed recording projects by the WDR Big Band and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, and his music is featured on the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos’s Jazz Composers Forum.
An in-demand educator and clinician, Argue has conducted residencies, workshops, and performances at Juilliard, the New School, the University of North Texas, Cornish College, McGill University, the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, the Sibelius Academy, and with numerous all-state and youth jazz orchestras. He has been an artist-in-residence at the ISJAC Symposium, Berklee’s State of Jazz Composition, and Missouri State University’s Composition Festival.
As a producer, Argue was awarded a Latin GRAMMY for Best Jazz Album for his work on Emilio Solla’s Puertos: Music from International Waters. He has also produced critically-acclaimed large-ensemble recordings by Jihye Lee, Brian Krock, Mike Fahie, Jeff Fairbanks, and Sherisse Rogers.