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Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die

Karl Ackermann By

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Improvisational trumpeter and electronics artist Jaimie Branch, a Chicago native, began playing trumpet at the age of nine. Doing double-duty, she has also worked around her home town as a sound engineer for Tim Daisy and Ken Vandermark. A relative newcomer, Branch moved to New York to complete a Master's degree in in Jazz Performance and settled down in the music mecca of Brooklyn. Fly or Die is her solo debut and it is a unique and unconventional introduction.

Musically, Branch has worked not only with Daisy and Vandermark but also with avant-garde cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, William Parker and Matana Roberts. Assembling a cadre of local Chicago notables for her first outing, Branch has stacked the deck with top notch talent reflecting her own drawing power. Drummer Chad Taylor is best known as one-half of the Chicago Underground Duo with cornetist Rob Mazurek and a member of many Mazurek formations. Bassist Jason Ajemian has also worked with Mazurek and Roberts as well as Marc Ribot and Matt Bauder. Cellist Tomeka Reid has deep roots in the AACM, collaborating with Anthony Braxton, Nicole Mitchell, George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell.

A harrowing, sixteen-second sonic intro, "Jump Off" is in stark contrast to guitarist Matt Schneider's opening of "Meanwhile." His acoustic, folk-like mode is soon joined by Branch's buzzing, extended technique that goes well beyond the recognizable parameters of the trumpet. Taylor supplies a backdrop independent of his bandmates, even while providing a loose platform from which both work. "Theme 002" is only slightly more straight-ahead owing to its Latin theme while "Leaves of Glass" continues to embellish the theme with cornetists Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman adding an orchestral feel. "The Storm" bears its title with a swirling Reid cello and Taylor's thundering drums. "Theme Nothing" is an appealingly exotic and somewhat more conventional composition, bringing the core group into unison.

Branch is a solid and creative trumpeter as evidenced on the solo title track. Her range of material is equally impressive as she moves in and out of free jazz to near noise and more refined settings while maintaining coherence throughout Fly or Die. Despite being surrounded by top-tier improvisers, she stands out as an individual and unique voice with a promising future as a leader.

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


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