I have all too often sat down at my computer to note the passing of a creative musical spirit. Mostly they have been musicians with a significant body of work to their credit and although there is always sadness, it is comforting to reflect on the memories and recordings they left us. The loss of a young and gifted musician is different, as it robs us of promise and leaves us with a circle uncompleted. That is very much the case with Jaimie Branch’s untimely death.
There is a lot of interesting new music in the world and so it is easy to overlook new arrivals on the scene. In the case of trumpeter Jaimie Branch, I got lucky. I was at a local Jazz Club when a friend emerged from the shadows and whispered, “you like adventurous music, so this album is for you”. He had purchased it, enjoyed it and was happy to find it an appreciative home. I had never heard of Branch, but he was right. This was exactly the sort of album that I searched for when scanning the new releases; exciting adventurous music, living in the now.
Jaimie Branch came up through the Chicago scene, an epicentre of American free jazz and adventurous improvised music. She brought with her the sounds of her youth, the sounds of the tough streets and an innate sense of groove. She was American life with all of its complexities and contradictions, but also the voice of hope. She was the mouthpiece of a generation restless for change and impatient at the pace of it. She was an environmentalist and a hopeful dreamer. She struggled with heroin addiction like so many young Americans.
Her breakthrough album was titled ‘FLY Or DIE. Her second, the one I was given, was titled ‘FLY Or DIE 11 (Bird Dogs of Paradise)’. It is rare to hear such potent music. It is confronting in a good way as it demands your attention and brings you aboard. There are lyrics, fiercely political lyrics, often anarchic, always telling truths, and you listen bewitched as the consuming vibe sweeps you into her reality.
Her core quartet with its delightful configuration of multi-instrumentalists have all been with her for a while. The beating heart: trumpet & voice, double bass, cello, drums. Especially check out ‘Prayer for Amerikkka’ which throws down the gauntlet. An amazing and haunting piece of music, ‘this is warning honey, they are comin’ for your head’. I think that it is the honesty of her trumpet playing that gives this the ultimate bite and all the more so when contrasted with the arco cello.
To truly grasp, the extent of her powers, go to Bandcamp and grab a copy of EPISODE 3. Flick down to ‘Birds Dipped In Oil’ and take it in. On this track, you will hear her as she takes on Trump, screaming and mocking his endless stupidity as he intones regarding matters of the environment, Branch contrasting splendidly. Her family are reported as saying that they don’t want our thoughts and prayers, just reach out and show kindness to somebody and support her many left-wing causes.
JazzLocal32.com is rated as one of the 50 best Jazz Blogs in the world by Feedspot. The author is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association, poet & writer. Some of these posts appear on other sites with the author’s permission.