In action at LPR.
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
Monday, June 21
Darcy James Argue would like us to know that CDs and “stylish T-shirts” are available for purchase, so as to “finance my big-band habit,” which is “worse than crack.” He then turns his attention back to conducting the big band in question, which variously evokes insomniac delirium, a slowly dissipating moon of Mars, a torture chamber, blaring bus horns, the game of tennis as described by David Foster Wallace, and, more obliquely, “the proposition that motion is an illusion.”
DJASS’ (never using that acronym again) inaugural CD, Infernal Machines, seized the Best Debut prize in last year’s Voice Jazz Poll by using updated big band weaponry (onstage, a double-digit whirlwind of horns, flutes, nervous piano, art-rock guitar loops, and so forth) to chronologically and sonically disparate ends: “Phobos” (the moon-of-Mars one) is driven by the clattering burble of an electronically distressed cajón drum and morphs from a sort of maximalist drum ‘n’ bass elegy to an Isis-esque dirge-metal riff overlaid by grieving guitar and a bombastic sax solo. “Steampunk big band” is not the worst term for it, no.
Here at the small Jazz at Lincoln Center club at the behest of the CareFusion Jazz Festival, Argue both conducts and banters with erudite aplomb, dedicating “Flux in a Box” to David Foster Wallace (and urging us to read Infinite Jest — “the endnotes are the best part”) and introducing the gently warped guitar-loop fantasia “Red Eye” with “The advice people often give writers and composers is, ‘Write what you know,’ so this is a piece about sleep deprivation.” He introduces everyone in the band, impressively remembering everyone’s name, barely. (“On lead trumpet is Jonathan… Powell?”) And lest everyone get too jovial, he prefaces the moody, ominous “Habeas Corpus” by relating the tale of Maher Arar, a “fellow Canadian” seized by the U.S. government, extraordinarily rendered to Syria, and imprisoned/tortured for 10 months. A hell of a thing to have in your head as another piece begins, but that’s precisely the point, of course. Takes a lot of stylish T-shirts, I imagine, to power all this; hopefully he sold a few.