11/11/11: Olivier Latry
White Light Festival: Week 4 Recap

Darcy James Argue's Brooklyn Babylon

DSC05818Darcy Argue likes to think big. As in: writing and performing original jazz with his own 18 piece orchestra. I've seen Darcy play all kinds of places over the past four years - everywhere from small dives like the Bowery Poetry Club to proper clubs like the Jazz Standard and Joe's Pub - and each time, it's been a joyous thrill ride.

Now, Darcy's managed to one-up himself with Brooklyn Babylon: a fully staged, fully integrated sight-and-sound performance currently taking up residence at BAM's Harvey Theater. Commissioned by BAM's Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Babylon tells the story of master carpenter Lev Bezdomni, who is comissioned to build a carousel that will crown the tallest building in the world, which is being constructed in the heart of Brooklyn. The message came through loud and clear, sitting within a crane's length of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaplex, where the Nets are set to move in late next year.  

Darcy wrote an hour's worth of new music for the performance, performed onstage by his Secret Society, who were dressed in 1920's outfits and arranged in a circular formation. Above them on a catwalk, artist Danijel Zezelj painted live on a 40-foot wide canvas, occasionally obscured by a screen on which thousands of his William Kentridge-like drawings were projected. 

The music was something of a departure from Darcy's usual aesthetic, sounding at times like Slavic Soul Party, no doubt meant to reflect the polyglot population of Brooklyn (just like the original Babylon.) At other points, the deafening roar of trombones and trumpets were interspersed with the quiet tinkling of flutes and muted horns. The piece ends in a disturbing crash of dissonances while Zezelj eradicates all of his delicate painting with a black paint roller. Simply brutal. 

There are two more performances of Brooklyn Babylon tonight and tomorrow night, both at 7:30. Tickets available at the box office, or online.