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by jaimie branch

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Adriana thumbnail
Adriana Makes me really sad to have only learned of Jaimie's genius after her passing. An incredible artist, musician and composer. RIP
JML thumbnail
JML a most assuredly LIVE recording that shall LIVE as long as there are ears to listen. having never known you in human form, I shall enjoy your music for as long as I remain on this plane we once all too briefly shared.
rikm thumbnail
rikm "FLY or DIE LIVE" is an excellent document of a live set by a dynamic and tight collaborative unit who give voice to both the world we live in and the changes that need to be made in that world. An excellent example of improvisational and spontaneous performance where music and mood are all created in the moment. Branch and the band are all tight, all performing at an inspired level.

A really great album that fully demonstrates the skill and talent of an amazing group of artists.
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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Two 160-gram BLACK vinyl LPs (pressed by Smashed Plastic in Chicago) inside a deluxe spot-glossed *gatefold jacket* with IARC obi strip, insert sheet, and dome-patterned inner-sleeves.

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Two shiny compact discs inside a deluxe package.

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  • IARC0041 - SHREDDED AMERICAN FLAG color vinyl double LP
    Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Two *limited edition* 160-gram SHREDDED AMERICAN FLAG color vinyl LPs (pressed by Smashed Plastic in Chicago) inside a deluxe spot-glossed *gatefold jacket* with IARC obi strip, insert sheet, and dome-patterned inner-sleeves.


    Includes unlimited streaming of FLY or DIE LIVE via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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lesterlude 02:43
whales 01:00
...meanwhile 01:56
sun tines 01:46
the storm 02:52
waltzer 05:54
slip tider 02:42
love song 07:35


Full flight capture of the full Fly or Die suite, parts 1 & 2 compounded & flawlessly communicated in a singular epic of raw cosmic brilliance.

full story in the words of Piotr Orlov here:

There is a moment near the top of jaimie branch’s FLY or DIE LIVE, the new album recorded by the trumpeter’s quartet in Zurich, Switzerland on January 23rd, 2020, which feels like it bears the weight of both that specific pocket of time, and a prophecy for all that was soon to come. branch and her Fly or Die crew — cellist Lester St. Louis, double bassist Jason Ajemian, and drummer/percussionist/mbira player Chad Taylor — had just kicked off the concert at Moods, with the opening tracks off their then-new studio album FLY or DIE II: Bird Dogs of Paradise, the second of which, “Prayer for Amerikkka” is among the best political songs written during the Tr*mp Era, and when the moment in question pops off.

The multi-part “Prayer” begins as a goth-blues stomp, its moaning ghosts flying around the room. A week into a European tour and after three months of constant live performance, Fly or Die is at home in this new song’s contours, messing with its internal machinery while guiding its meaning. By now, “Prayer” had gained a tough spoken-word intro, bringing the context as it slowly gearshifts the intensity: “It’s a song about America,” off-the-cuffs branch while the band seethes behind her, “but it’s about a whole lotta places — ‘cause it’s not just America where shit’s fucked up...” Then arrives the climax, at once site-specific and far-reaching: “...and it’s not always time to be neutral, do you know what I mean?” The gathered Swiss crowd knows, understands, and responds vocally, as Taylor’s backbeats cue branch to bring the trumpet to her lips, and let out a high-pitched wail. Her horn doesn’t know what’s about to happen to our world, and yet, somehow, it does — with only the catastrophic details needing to be worked out. For the next 12 minutes, “Prayer” careens through its twists of wide-eyed racism and family separation, Ajemian and Taylor driving branch’s punk-jazz Morricone horn line. “This is a warning, honey…” cries the song, and over the ensuing 70 minutes, the band echoes its sentiment, filled with glee and terror.

Where were you in January of 2020, those last moments of the Before Times? Where was your mind, your body, your soul? Did you have plans, hopes and aspirations for the oncoming calendar trip around the sun just starting its initial turn? Were you embroiled in the turmoil continuing to roil the feeds and the headlines, or steeling yourself for the ones that we all knew were incoming during an especially contentious American election year? Maybe both. Or maybe you felt there was some hope blowing in the air.

“There was so much promise for the year,” remembers branch. A world of possibilities was certainly pending for Fly or Die leading into 2020 and that Zurich gig. The group was in their favored environment, the stage, where their individual relationships had been molded. branch and Ajemian had been playing together since the mid-’00s in Chicago, and admiring Taylor’s work with the Chicago Underground and at the city’s legendary Velvet Lounge jam-session for just as long. When Fly or Die made its debut at Brooklyn’s Manhattan Inn in 2016, they made up three-quarters of the band. branch and St. Louis met in 2015 after jaimie first moved to New York, while St. Louis was working at the Spectrum club where branch played on occasion. (Soon St. Louis replaced original Fly or Die cellist Tomeka Reid, who departed the band to concentrate on her own myriad of commitments.) In the years since, this quartet had grown into a powerful unit, adept at conjuring musical environments that could be forceful and rhythmic one moment, and fragile the next.

“So much of what the band is about is the trust between the players and the rapport on stage,” says branch. “The trust means no one's going to drop the ball. The band is all improvisers, that's a really key thing. (A lot of people improvise, but not everybody's an improviser.) And I feel like this band especially is made up of them. So much of the music is led with the ears first.”

On Fly or Die’s sophomore album Bird Dogs of Paradise, which dropped in October 2019, branch had composed and recorded a batch of songs that showcased a political perspective and cutting sense of humor, balancing experimentalism and accessibility, party and erudition, “jazz” and the next thing. They were now headed out on the road to show off these songs — “the most touring this band would have ever done,” according to branch — integrating them in suite-like fashion with music from branch’s critically acclaimed 2017 debut. High on the work they were presenting, ready to lock into, and have some fun with it.

The late fall saw a month-long tour of Europe; December featured record release shows in LA, Brooklyn and Chicago; then in January, it was back to the EU for a two-week (no days off) sprint, of which the Thursday night at Zurich fell almost directly in the middle. The night before, January 22nd, at Oslo’s Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene was an upbeat one — St. Louis’ partner had surprised him by flying in from the States; and branch, who earlier thought she’d lost a bag with her passport, documents and cash, had it returned by their van driver after the gig. (No reason for anyone to notice that the Coronavirus had made its debut on the front-page of the New York Times that day.) The positive energy carried over to Switzerland. Soundcheck at Moods, “a big, nice theater in the middle of Zurich,” went well. branch had to talk the venue into the band doing one long set instead of two, but she also agreed to them making a multi-track recording of the set. “The vibe in the band was pretty high,” says branch.

From the offset, it sounds like that’s the case on both sides of the stage. The calm before the “Prayer” storm finds Taylor’s mbira and branch’s muted horn in a gentle duet, interweaving textures and melodies. The storm’s aftermath, “Lesterlude,” is a St. Louis-bowed solo feature turn, moving the strings towards the noise. Each individual song connects to the next, performed in a continuous, no-stop style, a part of the group’s DNA on record as well as stage. By “Twenty-Three N Me,” they are beginning to stretch into free spaces, and the crowd’s timely enunciations betray the fact that the audience too is up on every note. “Whales,” an Ajemian-led interlude, brings the sound palette to the bottom of the ocean, before Taylor’s intricate, rim-heavy beat returns us to the surface and gets the debut album’s “Theme 001” rolling into a full-on dance number. Approving screams pile up. The quiet-loud/fast-slow alteration continues: Taylor solos softly (“Meanwhile”), before exploding alongside Ajemian to push branch on a supple, double-time swing (“Theme 002,” with branch in Cootie Williams mode). Later Ajemian’s bass is joined by Taylor’s thumb-piano and St. Louis’ arco, before going on a solo stroll, upping the tempo and ending in the funky second-line swagger of “Simple Silver Surfer” (with great melodic counterpoint by St. Louis). It’s crisp and fun, the laughter in the audience answered on-stage. By the forever set-ending, self-indicting new-bar-standard, “Love Song (For Assholes and Clowns),” branch is conducting the sing-along. Then, soon, it is over.

So, how was it? At the time, Moods was just another stop on a never-ending tour. Italy next, we gotta go. The following month and a half was a blur too, amidst the increasingly dire headlines: the February Pacific Northwest dates found Fly or Die slaying PDX Jazz, but “we keep hearing whispers of this COVID stuff,” and less than 10 days after playing in Seattle, the city finds itself as the first American virus hotspot. In early March, before a gig at DC’s Kennedy Center, there’s a cancellation or two (“a little bit of gloom”). The following night at Brooklyn’s Roulette — the last gig many in attendance would see before quarantine — the bottom drops out (“six cancellations in an hour”). The tour ends, and everything stops. Forever — or what increasingly feels like it. Though a tape arrived from Zurich in early May, branch didn’t actually listen to it until the Fall. “I didn't want to be disappointed,” she says. Such was the headspace.

“I didn't have a memory of the show being an amazing show,” branch says. “But sometimes when you have zero memory of it being good or bad, those are the best shows. Because when you're in the zone, in those moments of channeling creativity, there isn't time for judgment. So oftentimes a memory is not created around that judgment, and that's actually a good indication.” When branch did pop the tape in, she was unequivocal: “I think this is like the best that we've ever played.”

branch’s personal highlight of FLY or DIE LIVE also comes on “Prayer,” and it too speaks of something greater than what you’ll hear on the recordings, or that the audience at Moods is likely to have picked up on: “There’s a moment in Part Two of the song when Jason flips the bassline and there's this moment of weirdness, but nobody even stops—this is what I'm talking about with trust. So I just added half a bar more of a vocal, because I heard Jason got wonky. And then Chad added a [verbalizes a fill]. It's my favorite part of the whole record because I hear the mistake and I hear us bulldoze through it, turn the mistake into a dance — because that's really what it is at the core of all of this, music as dance.” No neutrality there either.


released May 21, 2021

jaimie branch – trumpet, vocals, vibraslap
Lester St. Louis – cello, vocals, tiny cymbal
Jason Ajemian – bass, vocals, egg shakers
Chad Taylor – drums, vocals, mbira

Recorded Live at Moods, Zurich, Switzerland,

Engineered by Thierry Looser.
Mixed by Dave Vettraino.
Mastered by David Allen.

Cover Photo by jaimie branch.
Gatefold Collage by jaimie branch.
Center Sticker Portraits by Abdesslam MIRDASS.
Layout & Insert Design by Craig Hansen

Special thanks to all at Moods, specifically Jacqueline Wüst, Carine Zuber, Sebastian Brunner.

A big thank you to Scottie McNiece, David Allen, Dave Vettraino and everyone at International Anthem Recording Company, Regina Greene, the whole team at Saudades, the crew at Moods, Maya Carney, Jody, Soledad I + II, Will Yak, Kate Branch, Jason, Lester, Chad and everyone who Flies with us. Flock up, Much Love. ~j breezy


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International Anthem Chicago, Illinois

International Anthem is a Chicago-born recording company that produces and promotes progressive media.

The IARC mission is to make positive contributions to the changing state of the music industry, and to vitalize the demand for boundary-defying music by presenting unique sounds in appealing packages to untapped audiences.
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