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A joyful modern jazz postscript from late trumpeter jaimie branch

A person wearing a tie-dye shirt and hat plays the trumpet with a bass player in the background.
Dirk Neven
CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
jaimie branch performs in The Netherlands on November 4, 2021.

Trumpeter and composer jaimie branch was a powerful voice in modern music before she died last year at age 39. With the release of her third studio album Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)), branch's music seems sure to live on for years to come.

After studying at the New England Conservatory in Boston, branch developed a sharply direct way of playing in the loose structure of free jazz. She pulled inspiration from jazz icons as well as an endless variety of music from around the world. At the center of branch's music was her blending of impressive technique with raw artistic passion.

Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) captures branch at a creative peak. She was playing with longer song forms, emphasizing her vocals more, and showing more vulnerability.

branch's long running quartet with Lester St. Louis on cello (also flute, marimba and keys), Jason Ajemian on bass (and marimba) and Chad Taylor at the drums and percussion are augmented with a few special guests on the new album. Nick Broste plays trombone on a pair of songs; Rob Frye joins on bass clarinet and flute for three songs with occasional percussion and vocals from Daniel Villarreal.

The album's centerpiece is the rollicking "baba louie," opening with joyful New Orleans-flavored calypso bounce that sounds like a party marching down Bourbon Street. The song takes a turn in the second half as the tempo slows and psychedelic washes of keyboards and bass set the stage for a big comedown, as if the party took an unexpectedly dark turn.

A fixture in the Chicago and New York jazz scenes over the course of her career, branch is remembered as a generous collaborator and an expressive trumpet player. The joyful and exciting music on her new album feels all the more tragic, branch was clearly playing at the top of her game.

On the song "burning grey," branch was an artist not afraid of challenges: "Believe me, the future lives inside us. Don't forget to fight!" she sings.

From her powerful, full-bodied tone and experiments with looping and effects, trumpeter jaimie branch was always committed to the music. On her final artistic statement, branch left the world showing us the best of herself.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.