Kudos once again to Mr. Darcy James Argue, who was featured this week at New Music Box, and had his most recent gig with his Secret Society big band reviewed glowingly in the Grey Lady herself. As always, the performances are posted at his blog. I’ve known Darcy since our time together in Brookmeyer’s studio at NEC, and have always admired his work and valued his friendship and advice, and it’s always pleasing to see the good guys win one. (Less known but equally important, he also mixes some of the best drinks in Brooklyn.)
One great advantage of Darcy’s blog is the ability to hear the evolution of the music from gig to gig, something you don’t often get to hear even with a working big band. (It helps that he’s very articulate about his process, moreso than most) Most charts by someone like Bob or Maria Schneider get defined in most listeners heads by the recorded versions, and in a workshop band the listener (and the band) usually gets only one or two cracks at a piece in performance. Which is a shame, and not representative of a composer’s process; when charts get played often they breathe, grow, bitch, and are revised, reorchestrated, or flat out rewritten sometimes. Or different players give a piece a totally different feel- the Indian influences Richie Barshay brings to “Phobos” (the August hit) make it feel radically different from Kendrick Scott’s version last week.
For the record, I’m with Darcy on Ratliff’s take on “Flux in a Box”; I really like the alto solo. My beef- it’s waaaaay too fast for me- a lot of the really sharp lines that define the chart get lost. And one question I’ve always had- how does he determine what sounds the keyboard player uses, or does he? I know if I’m facing a venue where I know I don’t have a real piano (which is most), I always adjust so that the player is instructed to play a Rhodes or Wurly sound, or something else. I’ve never heard a piano patch that makes me happy, so I always work around it. On the plus side, to my ears the reading of “Transit” is the best to date in my book. What a bone solo. Kicks my ass to write more better.