Darcy James Argue

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Darcy James Argue
Darcy James Argue 06N5508.jpg
Argue at the 2009 Moers festival
Background information
Genres Steampunk Big band
Occupation(s) Composer
Instruments Piano
Years active 2005–present
Labels New Amsterdam Records
Associated acts Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
Website secretsocietymusic.org

Darcy James Argue (born May 23, 1975) is a Canadian jazz composer and bandleader.


Argue was born May 23, 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia,[1][2] Argue came to the United States in 2000 to study composition at the New England Conservatory.[3] Here, he studied with legendary jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer.[4]

Argue now resides in Brooklyn, New York.[5]

His music is not typical of what most people know as a “big band”. Most people associate “Big Band” with a sort of swing, funk, or even Latin feel. However, Darcy mixes minimalism, contemporary classical, indie rock and jazz styles into one giant mixing pot which ultimately surprises the listener. All of his music has a great amount of intensity, which pushes the music forward into new directions. Typically, Darcy avoids standard instrumentation and uses avant-garde instruments to paint a picture for the audience. He is known for using guitars with loop pedal and effects, Cajones, and in one case even a Melodica. He also rarely follows standard instrumentation in regards to the sax line, he often uses a mix of various woodwinds,clarinet, flute, etc. To compare him to another Composer, he could be related to Maria Schneider with more aggressive nuances. He also tends to paint a picture for the audience.

Secret Society[edit]

In 2005, Argue founded Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, an 18 piece steampunk big band. In 2009, the group's first studio album, Infernal Machines was released by the New York City based indie-classical label, New Amsterdam Records. This debut includes amazing new adaptations to the big band such as cajun rhythm, subtle electric guitar washes and lush horn refrains that open Infernal Machines, which was the studio debut of Darcy James Argue's Secret Society,

In this album Darcy Argue's Secret Society draws inspiration from classic stalwarts like the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra as well as pioneering post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky and Tortoise, Argue incorporates electric guitars, Fender Rhodes and electric bass into traditional big band instrumentation, extending the innovations of such visionaries as Don Ellis, Gil Evans and George Russell. Darcy uses blend of contrapuntal horn voicings, atmospheric electronic textures and post-minimalist rhythms.

Also in 2013 Darcy released his GRAMMY nominated album Brooklyn Babylon. This album was based upon a multimedia performance, which used images from graphic artist Danijel Zezelj to tell a story. He uses severe angles with black-and-white monochromatic looks which suggests a vast metropolis reminiscent of an early-20th-century New York.

This album is classically structured with its "Prologue" and "Epilogue," Argue's compositions also implement Americana, European influences and measures of avant-garde. As an extended form, this suite differs from Secret Society's much heralded debut Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam, 2009) where solo performances are more insistent compared to the Impressionistic and billowing backdrop of the main themes.



  • 2014: Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for Brooklyn Babylon (nominated)
  • 2011: Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for Infernal Machines (nominated)
  • 2011: DownBeat Critics Poll: Rising Star, composer
  • 2010: DownBeat Critics Poll: Rising Star, Composer, Arranger, Big Band
  • 2010: JUNO Award Journalist Association Jazz Awards: Large Ensemble of the Year
  • 2010: JUNO Award nominee: Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year
  • Best Debut, 2009 Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll
  • Album of the Year, El Intruso International Critics poll

His awards also include the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop Charlie Parker Composition Prize and SOCAN’s Hagood Hardy Award.

He has received commissions from the Danish Radio Big Band, the Hard Rubber Orchestra, the West Point Jazz Knights, the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, The Jazz Gallery, the Manhattan New Music Project, and the Jerome Foundation, as well as grants and fellowships from New Music USA, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. He is also the 2013 fellow in Music/Sound from the New York Foundation for the Arts.[6]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Darcy James Argue's Secret Society". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  2. ^ Gehr, Richard (2009-05-05). "Darcy James Argue's Metal Machine Music". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  3. ^ Leonard, Devin (2009-07-09). "The History of Jazz, by Darcy James Argue". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  4. ^ "The Perils of Empire: Steampunk Big Band" (PDF). SteamPunk Magazine. p. 65. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  5. ^ Walls, Seth Colter (2009-04-25). "Jazz Standards That Aren’t". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  6. ^ "Awards and Albums".