Darcy James Argue

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015

New York, NY

In 2005, Darcy James Argue founded Secret Society, an 18-piece big band that quickly secured its reputation as one of modern jazz’s premier large ensembles. Their latest release is the GRAMMY Award-nominated Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam, 2013), which received a MAP Fund grant (2011). The recording evokes the gentrification connected to Brooklyn and has drawn critical comparison to panoramic works by Duke Ellington and Charles Ives. Following the release of Brooklyn Babylon, Secret Society earned top honors in the Big Band category of the DownBeat Critics Poll (2013) as well as JazzTimes Big Band/Large Ensemble of the Year (2013). His commissions include the Jerome Foundation, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and most recently the Fromm Music Foundation for his upcoming multimedia work Real Enemies, which will premiere in the fall of 2015. His recent work Tensile Curves (2014) was inspired by Duke Ellington’s “Diminuendo in Blue,” employing metric modulations in place of Ellington’s modulations of volume and intensity.

  • photo by Lindsay Beyerstein
    Darcy James Argue
  • Obsidian Flow, Infernal Machines (Live Performance, 2011)
  • Darcy James Argue- “Construction + Deconstruction,” Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam Records, 2013) : https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/195678036%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-m0Q1N&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true
    “Construction + Deconstruction,” Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam Records, 2013)
  • Darcy James Argue- “Phobos,” Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records, 2009): https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/195677947%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-wYu4A&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true
    “Phobos,” Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records, 2009)
  • photo by Lindsay Beyerstein
  • photo by James Matthew Daniel
  • photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

The contemporary jazz big band represents an extraordinary array of possibilities. It’s made up of musicians who can execute complex written music with groove and grit; improvisers who can weave their way through strange and beautiful textures; players who bring all of their diverse experiences to bear on the project of collective music-making. It’s an ensemble most often associated with the sounds of a bygone era, but for me, the big band is the ideal vehicle for forward-looking music that draws inspiration from a broad range of sources, both inside and outside of jazz. As a composer, writing for big band affords me equal opportunity to construct something big and fierce, or small and intricate. It allows me to create entire worlds, and then let improvising musicians loose inside of them. That will never stop being thrilling to me.