Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Jaimie Branch: Fly Or Die

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Since breezing in from Chicago, trumpeter Jaimie Branch has quickly become a major presence on the NYC scene, thanks not only to her instrumental chops but also her ceaseless organizing. However that influence has yet to translate into a commensurate discography. Fly Or Die (the name variously of the album, the band, the suite and a piece contained within it) represents her first appearance under her own name, and what will hopefully be the first of many. For her debut Branch enlists three further talents associated with the Windy City in cellist Tomeka Reid, drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Jason Ajemian.

Although making a name for herself primarily as an improviser, Branch took motifs from the quartet's first free performance six months prior to the record date, and used these to craft a series of tight grooving themes. She programs these cuts to flow together with more impressionistic or spacey explorations to create a continuous suite, assembled from a mix of studio and live recordings. Branch has also overdubbed the cornets of Josh Berman and Ben LaMar Gay, at times creating a brass choir, and adds the guitar of Matt Schneider at various points, as well as indulging in some post production effects.

Branch shows a wide adventurous streak, evidenced on the opening "Jump Off," where her frothy spluttering evokes Peter Evans, though at 13 seconds it's way too short. Another brief unaccompanied excursion emerges on the title track where her buzzing lines are tellingly set amid silence. What makes her so engaging is that allied to the experimental she possesses an innate melodic sensibility, often reiterating subtly modulated variations on thematic material. An early example comes through on the choppy "Theme 001," where Reid and Ajemian interlock in exciting counter rhythms which recall Julius Hemphill's classic Dogon A.D. while Taylor fastens into the grooves with inventive abandon.

Branch lays down similarly plaintive patterns towards the close of the crisp "Theme 002," which in turn form the basis for a reverberant multi-tracked brass chorus on "Leaves of Glass," culminating in a swirling crescendo of indeterminate string noise. In spite of the talented roster, most of the focus remains on the trumpet, although Reid does offer some slashing counterpoint on "Theme Nothing," where Taylor also takes an ebullient solo over insistent riffs. There's perhaps a downside to being chock full of ideas as a running time under 36 minutes means that those looking for Branch and band to stretch out might have to wait until next time. But already the indications are there to signal that it will be worth the wait.

Track Listing: Jump Off; Theme 001; Meanwhile; Theme 002; Leaves of Glass; The Storm; Waltzer; Fly or Die; Theme Nothing; …Back At the Ranch.

Personnel: Jaimie Branch: trumpet; Tomeka Reid: cello; Jason Ajemian: bass; Chad Taylor: drums; Matt Schneider: guitar; Ben Lamar Gay: cornet; Josh Berman: cornet.

Title: Fly Or Die | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: International Anthem Recording Company


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Smooth Shake" CD/LP/Track Review Smooth Shake
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Then and Now" CD/LP/Track Review Then and Now
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 28, 2017
Read "The Late Trane" CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Sounding Tears" CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Samba Para a Vida" CD/LP/Track Review Samba Para a Vida
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 7, 2017
Read "Meditations on Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Meditations on Freedom
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: January 16, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!