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The Boston Globe


Music Review

Secret Society redefines ‘big band’

There’s nothing conventional about Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society — from the leader’s name, to the name of the band, to the music they play. It is, ostensibly, a jazz orchestra, but at the Regattabar Friday night they offered barely a hint of jazz swing. There aren’t a lot of points of comparison. This isn’t the post-Basie swing of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, the clamoring avant-garde of the Sun Ra Arkestra, or the shimmering Brazilian updrafts of Maria Schneider. Argue likes to assemble the traditional jazz big-band colors of brass and woodwinds, but he engages them with layers of cyclical rhythms, like the “process” minimalism of early Philip Glass and Steve Reich — although one audience member name-checked John Adams. He wasn’t wrong.

Friday night, Secret Society gave the Boston premiere of Argue’s entire new album, “Brooklyn Babylon” (New Amsterdam Records). This piece is meant to depict a story conceived by Argue with the Croatian-born graphic artist Danijel Zezelj, taking place in a mythic Brooklyn, N.Y., where an immense tower is being built and an immigrant carpenter finds himself torn between personal ambition and his loyalty to the community.

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