Ben Ratliff reviews Darcy.
Believe it or not, I was actually listening to "Flux In A Box," the tune Ratliff starts his article with, when I started reading the article. The praise comes in a roundabout manner, but overall Ratliff describes the music well. It's unfortunate that he doesn't mention the blog. In any case, we can make up our own minds.
Ratliff touches upon the "writing vs. solo" debate. I sometimes get the feeling that the mainstream improvising language lags behind the writing language of bands like Maria Schneider's or Darcy's. But I got that feeling with some of Mingus's bands, too, for example. It's just the feeling that the composition points to things beyond what the improviser is doing. Naturally, that's easy to say, from the outside. We're more used to the reverse: the latest improvising approaches applied to old-fashioned material.
I don't get this feeling at all from John Hollenbeck's music (be it the Large Ensemble or the Claudia Quintet), but that may be because he doesn't really rely on soloists, but on the personalities of Chris Speed and Matt Moran, to cite the two in both bands, in a more general way.
Darcy links to a NMBx article and video featuring him, Sherisse Rogers and Charles Waters talking about contemporary big band writing. I'd long wondered (without daring - or thinking - to ask) what Darcy meant by "steam-punk." Now I know. Also, Darcy's re-enactment of "the first cold call" is worth your time.