WCSU Jazz Festival to feature Benny Golson, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

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DANBURY, CONN. — It’s no secret that year after year, Western Connecticut State University stops at nothing to showcase the best jazz artists as featured performers for the university’s annual jazz festival. And this year’s event, the 16th Jazz Fest, which will run from Thursday, April 28, through Saturday, April 30, promises to be no exception.

Internationally acclaimed tenor saxophone player Benny Golson will perform with the WCSU Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Jamie Begian at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 29, in Ives Concert Hall in White Hall on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury.

Following two WCSU student ensembles at 7 p.m., Darcy James Argue’s celebrated 18-piece big band, Secret Society, will be featured in concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, also in Ives Concert Hall.

Ticket prices for each concert are $15 for adults, and $10 for senior citizens and students; WestConn students with valid identification and student participants in the festival will be admitted free. Reservation information is available online at www.wcsu.edu/tickets, or by calling (203) 837-TIXX.

A native of Philadelphia, Golson has played in the bands of Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Earl Bostic and Art Blakey. A live performer who is said to “blow audiences away,” the 82-year-old has performed in the U.S., Europe, South America, the Far East and Japan for decades.

According to his website, “Benny Golson is the only living jazz artist to have written eight standards for jazz repertoire. These jazz standards have found their way into countless recordings internationally over the years and are still being recorded.”

At a music industry event in 2005, it was noted that Golson has composed more than 300 songs for acts as diverse as Miles Davis, Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield and the Monkees. He’s also scored some recognizable pieces for television, including “M*A*S*H,” “Mannix,” “Mission Impossible,” “Mod Squad,” “Room 222,” “Run for Your Life,” “The Partridge Family,” “The Academy Awards,” Bill Cosby's last TV show and television specials for ABC, CBS, NBC and the BCC.

Golson received a Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award in 2007 and a Recording Academy “Salute to Jazz Honors Giants of the Genre” in 2005, as well as numerous Grammy nominations.

Bob McCullough of The Boston Globe wrote, “Virtually every solo by Golson is a textbook tour de force.” John S. Wilson, jazz critic for The New York Times, agrees. “I have known Benny Golson as one of the most complete musicians of the past twenty-five years. He is a composer with an unusually brilliant melodic sense.”

Critics are similarly impressed with Darcy James Argue, crediting him with developing “a nearly perfect creative synthesis between tradition and innovation” (John Eyles, BBC.com). Argue’s compositions were described as “ambitious, sprawling, mesmerizing” by Juan Rodriguez, of the Montreal Gazette; and Ben Ratliff of the New York Times noted his “big, broad musical vocabulary.” Time Out New York’s Hank Shteamer added, “Argue draws on the full spectrum of modern rock, jazz and classical music” in a way that “handily transcends pastiche.”

A lot of the buzz was generated by Argue’s Grammy-nominated debut recording, “Infernal Machines,” featuring his 18-piece big band, Secret Society. The record was included on more than 100 best-of-the year lists and won Best Debut honors in the 2009 Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll. Argue and Secret Society topped three categories in the 2010 DownBeat Critics’ Poll (Rising Star, Big Band; Rising Star, Composer; and Rising Star, Arranger) and were the recipients of two 2010 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards (Large Ensemble of the Year and Up & Coming Artist of the Year). The group has played high-profile concerts in New York and other U.S. cities, as well as in Europe.

A former member of the Montreal jazz scene, Vancouver native Argue moved to Brooklyn in 2003 after earning a master’s degree in Boston while studying with legendary composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer. Among the awards he has received are the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop Charlie Parker Composition Prize and the SOCAN/CAJE Phil Nimmons Emerging Composer Award. Argue has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, the American Music Center, Meet The Composer, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Since 1995, the WCSU Jazz Fest has brought leading jazz artists to Danbury each spring for a three-day program that combines concert performances with a series of music clinics offering master-class instruction and critiques for music students at Western and at schools in the Greater Danbury area. Golson and Argue will join professional jazz artists who hold full-time and adjunct faculty positions in the WCSU music department to conduct performance clinics during the festival. Golson’s clinic will be at 5 p.m. on Friday, with Argue following suit at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday.

“Having these great guest artists, one an acknowledged jazz legend and the other a rising star, ‘up close and personal’ provides our students an invaluable insight into the expectations of what a professional musician is and does,” Begian said. “The energy level leading up to the festival is sky-high, and I’m always proud of how our students rise to the occasion and demonstrate the quality of the program here at WestConn.”

This year’s Jazz Fest is sponsored by the WCSU Student Government Association, the WCSU Jazz Club, and the Connecticut State University System Activities in the Arts Program. For more information, contact Begian at (203) 837-8637 or begianj@wcsu.edu, or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.


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