Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die
For years, the name Jaimie Branch rang out in the liner notes or onstage credits of the most popular indie rock bands. She toured with the likes of Spoon and TV on the Radio and recorded with Arcade Fire offshoot Bell Orchestre and Chicago metal mainstays The Atlas Moth. Branch was deep in the city’s fertile jazz mix, too, vamping on trumpet in sessions with Jeff Parker and Ken Vandermark.
But in the last few years, she has emerged as a major composer, voice, and bandleader in the international jazz scene—an exuberant young trumpeter laying waste to old hierarchies. Her Fly or Die quartet, with Jason Ajemian on bass, Chad Taylor on drums, and Lester St. Louis on cello, is one of the country’s most unquenchable outfits.
Fly or Die’s 2017 debut on International Anthem was an artistic and critical breakthrough, lauded by The New York Times and NPR for a sense of upheaval as indebted to The Art Ensemble of Chicago as to punk rock. It was a prelude for the big payoff of Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise, the quartet’s extraordinary second album. Branch shouts and sings now, spiritually dredging the nation in “prayer for amerikkka” and “love song.” Her playing is alternately delightful and daunting, and at the record’s most intense, you’re not sure if she’s dancing with devils or shouting them down. Either way, as Jazz Times said, it’s “a superb recording that seethes in its quiet moments and often reaches a bracing, full-throated roar.”