A Big Band for Today, With Hints of the Past

The band Secret Society, which gave a brilliant performance at the Second Annual 3 Quarks Ball earlier this year, is reviewed by Ben Ratliff in the New York Times:

02darc1_1Halfway through an alto saxophone solo, in a piece of large-ensemble jazz by Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, a funny thing happened. The solo, by Rob Wilkerson, was thoughtful and idiomatically current. It took a few minutes to crest and subside, and Mr. Wilkerson passed through provocative intervals, swift chromatic passages and long tones, played with feeling. It wasn’t cold, or overdetermined by patterns. Why didn’t it seem right?

It was that Mr. Argue’s ensemble writing, before the solo, had been so rich and strong that the solo felt distracting, almost unnecessary. The tune was called “Flux in a Box,” and there were 18 good musicians onstage on Thursday at the Bowery Poetry Club, most of them having emptied out of music school in the last five years or so. (The Secret Society formed last year and hasn’t played many gigs yet; the musicians are all moving parts of the New York jazz scene, most with some working experience in the city’s best big bands, including Maria Schneider’s ensemble and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.) Mr. Argue, young, tense, sallow and leather-jacketed, conducted in front…

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.

More here.  Congratulations to Darcy and all of Secret Society!