Boo To You, Too

I Spend All My Time Down At The Bar With A Planter’s Punch and A Big Cigar

The Reel Deal: Hayes & Cahill at the Irish Arts Center

Poignant and piercing, the duets of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill rely on the kind of understatement that ultimately amplifies the wistful glee often at the heart of trad Celtic music. It’s a big deal when the violinist and guitarist make their semi-annual New York stops – fans can’t wait to see them work their deep improv skills on items such as “Gallagher’s Frolics” or “Green Gowned Lass.” Guess that makes their two-week residency at the Irish Arts Center a mega-event. It centers on the Martin Hayes Quartet (the pair joined by violist Liz Knowles and bass clarinetist Doug Wieselman) while also boasting collabos with an array of regional heroes, expert in everything from mandolin to tin whistle. Perhaps most intriguing is the closing concert with jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, who named one of her discs ‘Glamoured,’ harking to the Gaelic definition of spells being cast and enchantments being rendered. Given the seductive rapport Hayes and Cahill have conjured previously, it’s an apt parallel to this string of exploratory shows.

Schedule and Show Description 


When He Takes His Shirt Off, He Drives The Ladies Crazy

Randy Newman interview – Washington Post

In It For The Long Run: BassDrumBone at 40

I remember playing Oahspe on the radio when it dropped. Forever a favorite trio.

More Info

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society “Real Enemies” (New Amsterdam)

It starts with a slight irritation. The music – muted brass, then a gaggle of other horns – pecks at a five-note riff that both attracts and unnerves. The insinuation has begun. Soon, counter motifs arise and the piano waxes eerie. Following their leader’s instructions, the 18-member Secret Society sounds masterful setting up such an ominous aura. Forget the steampunk stuff. It turns out that postmodern noir may be Darcy James Argue’s strongest suit.

Real Enemies is a multi-media piece that addresses the perniciousness of conspiracy theories and the way they seep into our social fabric. When New York composer Argue premiered it last fall at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, he conducted his large ensemble while surrounded by 15 screens beaming images of J. Edgar Hoover, bee hives, Ollie North, the WTC towers and other puzzling political flash points, sketching a time-line of dubious truths and questionable lies. Throughout this 12-piece program (whose compositions take cues from Schoenberg’s 12-tone methodology), you can hear the tick-tick-tick of a doomsday clock that Argue also referenced onstage. The schitzy whispers and manic crescendos are potent enough to conjure an active state of paranoia, ideal for an examination of all things sinister.

Argue’s arrangements glow with subtleties and resound with punch. The momentary clunkiness that bubbled up in his earliest pieces has been smoothed out by an ever-developing eloquence, especially in a narrative sense. The grace of tracks like “Who Do You Trust,” “Apocalypse Is a Process” and “Dark Alliance” unfurl with a newfound articulation. Solos are better integrated; the action moves from Point A to Point B with a deeper clarity. Secret Society is comprised of key NYC improvisers such as Jacob Garchik, Sebastian Noelle, Ryan Keberle, John Ellis, and many more, and it’s terrific to hear them in full blush. At this past summer’s Newport Jazz Festival, they used the large stage to bring clout and eloquence to their foreboding fanfares. They’re always impressive on the bandstand.

Taking his cue from Kathryn Olmsted’s book of the same name, Argue built Real Enemies around a history of deceit and its resulting culture of doubt. “We never want a serious crisis to go to waste” says the baneful voice of Rahm Emanuel at one point. In Argue’s hands the news snippet references everything from Halliburton’s profiteering in the Middle East to the post-Katrina land grab by greedy NOLA realtors. Birthers, the Illuminati, chemtrails, the crack crisis, all things Trump – does our ever-widening landscape of suspicion have a soundtrack? It does now.

Secret Society plays National Sawdust Sunday night


Listen to Secret Society at the Newport Jazz Fest 2014

2010 Darcy profile – Boston Phoenix

John Beasley Presents MONK’estra Vol 1  (Mack Ave.) 

A trip-hop “’Round Midnight”? Why the hell not? At this late date, Monk’s most famous tune has been so strongly standardized, it takes a true overhaul to have it heard with fresh ears. John Beasley’s chart kicks it off with seven badass snare triplets that serve as an alarm midway through this all-Thelonious big band album. By the time the spectral theme settles in, its introspection is being goosed by a drum ‘n’ bass groove that’s not usually associated with jazz. Like the rest of Beasley’s valentines, it’s found a way to bounce new life into a stone classic.

When I say “alarm” I’m not suggesting that one is actually needed. From the start – an escalator-up, escalator-down prance through “Epistrophy” that gives Gary Burton a chance to bolster the tune’s inherently percussive nature – there’s vigor in the air. Beasley, an L.A.-based pianist/arranger who has spent time writing for television and film as well as fulfilling Musical Director roles for Queen Latifah and Steely Dan tours, throws some entertaining elaborations our way. The oft-overlooked “Oska T” vamps its way from a hush to an exclamation – a very swinging exclamation.

The music becomes a tad glossy now and then; Beasley’s also spent time penning jingles. But in several pieces the overt hooks help articulate the inspired designs he brings to everything from “Skippy” to “Gallop’s Gallop.” Cross themes are filled with cagey specifics, and grace, not intricacy, helps sell a few tracks. The ease that marks “Coming on the Hudson” kind of says it all. An inventive Monk fiend devised a side-ways glance at one of his heroes, and while the solos are swell, it’s the craftsmanship that will have fans anticipating Vol. 2.