Nice and jazzy

Infernal Machines by Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Darcy James Argue (Photo by Ben Anaman)

In the Fall-Winter 2009 edition of the McGill News, we sang the praises of Infernal Machines, the first album released by the New York-based Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. Conductor/composer Argue, BMus’97, brings his own unique sensibility to the realm of big band jazz and the results are one-of-a-kind. One track on the album, brimming with subdued menace was inspired by the Kafkaesque experiences of McGill graduate Maher Arar, BEng'95, who spent close to a year in a Syrian prison on the basis of vague and never proven accusations of terrorist ties. Among the many talented musicians in the Secret Society is trombonist Mike Fahie, BMus '98, who Argue met at McGill. We weren't the only ones impressed by Infernal Machines. The album finished in fourth place in the Village Voice's annual jazz critics poll. The New York Times listed it among their top 10 jazz albums of the year. Most recently, Infernal Machines scored a Juno Award nomination for contemporary jazz album of the year.

To listen to some tracks from Infernal Machines, visit Argues's MySpace page.

Christine Jensen (Photo by Michel Laplante)

Treelines by the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra

Jazz might typically be associated with the rhythms of the big city, but Juno Award winning composer and saxophonist Christine Jensen, BMus'94, MMus'06, draws inspiration from the great outdoors for her latest offering, Treelines, a full-hearted tribute to the natural beauty of Canada's forests and shorelines. The album features standout performances from sax players Chet Doxas, BMus'04, MMus'08, and Joel Miller, BMus'93. Treelines, described by the Ottawa Citizen as "a knockout," has also earned four-stard reviews from the Montreal Gazette, La Presse and Hour.

Visit here for a YouTube preview of the album and here to listen to one of the album's tracks, "Red Cedar", a tribute to longtime Montreal jazz critic Len Dobbin.

First Steps by Min Rager

Min Rager

Seoul-born Min Rager, BMus'03, MMus'06, has established a reputation as one of Canada's most promising jazz pianists. Her most recent album, First Steps, finds her venturing from blues to a bossa, with her nimble piano work and attention to melody fully on display. Rager is a part-time jazz instructor at the Schulich School of Music and she uses her familiarity with the talent available at McGill to good effect. Trumpeter Kevin Dean and drummer Andre White, MMus'90, both of them cornerstones of McGill's jazz program, are part of Raeger's ensemble here, and the pair is a strong match for the crisp energy of her compositions. Rager also partners with husband Josh Rager, BMus'08, MMus'02, himself a well-regarded jazz pianist, on a two-piano duet for the closing number, "Always Near to You".

To hear some excerpts from First Steps, visit Raeger's site.