The Secret Society’s 2009 release, Infernal Machines, surprised many including bandleader and composer Argue, by appearing on over 100 “best of” lists that year, and being nominated for a Grammy and a Juno. Even here on AMN, where we tend to focus on far left-of-center music, this big band recording was honored as the second best album of the year. And it was a very close second.
This month, the Secret Society and their leader are back with another offering. The eighteen-piece lineup is mostly the same, as is the overall sound and feel of the music. Ok, there are a few short diversions into marching band and latin spaces. Yet, rich textures, catchy and complex melodies, and lush harmonization abound.
Brooklyn Babylon replaces the occasional all-out ass-kicking of its predecessor with a more restrained and introspective approach. Instead of hitting the boiling point with a guitar, horn, and drum attack, this time around the Society keeps it at a cerebral simmer. That’s not to say the music isn’t aggressive – just that the aggression herein is tempered with a spaciousness and assiduous reserve.
While not your grandparent’s big band, Argue has done more for the genre in the last five years than anyone has since Ellington. This is, compelling, intelligent music worthy of the accolades that Infernal Machines received. My only request: less than a four-year wait for another release.