Monday, February 13, 2012

Challenging music from Darcy James Argue

BROOKLYN BABYLON-CHAPTER 5-EXCERPT from Danijel Zezelj on Vimeo.

Listen to what composer Darcy James Argue, who will visit Missouri State as visiting composer for the annual Composition Festival, is up to these days.

He debuted "Brooklyn Babylon," a multimedia work in collaboration with visual artist Danijel Zezelj, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival in November. Zezelj's animated artwork was projected on a screen while Argue led his band, Secret Society, through the hourlong piece. Zezelj painted live during the performances in November, according to the "Brooklyn Babylon" website.

Excerpts provided at the website suggest gloriously bombastic music and unsettling geometric visuals. The site offers this description of the work's premise:
"In the teeming metropolis of a future Brooklyn, longtime residents and fresh arrivals work together to preserve their embattled neighborhoods. But plans are afoot to construct an immense tower — the tallest in the world — right in the heart of the city, and Lev, a master carpenter, finds himself torn between ambition and community when he is commissioned to build the carousel that will crown it."

The excerpt embedded above is from Chapter 5 of the "Brooklyn Babylon." It employs mysterious bludgeoning pulses, effects like aerial bombardment, electronics expanding expectations of the trumpet, plus physical trumpet drama from Ingrid Jensen. Listen also to the audio excerpt from Chapter 5, a different segment from the video, with worsening bombardment.

Argue's 2009 album, "Infernal Machines," presents Argue's range of rhythms, colors and effects that range from vibrations to calculated noise, over which stellar musicians improvise. Not your typical big band.

Like many musical things I encounter, I find that "Brooklyn Babylon" is something I can dip into at any point and enjoy, even though I may not understand what's going on.

MSU students will have an opportunity to understand Argue's art. They will be working with him during the festival and performing pieces from "Infernal Machines" and other works.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jazz + sports bar: A winning combination

MOJO, the Missouri Jazz Orchestra, competes with many musical groups for the title of best-kept secret in town, even as it packs Marty's Sports Bar every first and third Tuesday.

The music is simply astonishing, for these reasons:
  • A professional crew comprised of great players with long resum├ęs and huge talent.
  • Commitment to the mid- to late-Basie bands and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis institution that sprung from them.
  • Most noticeably, great soloists, such as the galvanic tenorist Brent Vaughan and Scott Harris on trumpet in the embedded video above.
  • Most distinctively, original writing and arranging by Vaughan and Harris. The video embedded above is Harris' "Waiting for Spring." 

I hear this saying a lot: "Support local bands — they're often just as good as the national acts you follow." It definitely applies to MOJO. Plus it's a great kick in the pants to walk into a sports bar and get a 16-piece blast of sound.