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Jaimie Branch: Chicago State of Mind

How a Windy City trumpeter, raised on Ornette and punk rock, became one of the most thrilling new voices of the New York avant-garde

Photo of Jaimie Branch
Jaimie Branch (photo by Peter Gannushkin)

On the night in June that she turned 34 years old, Jaimie Branch welcomed a small crowd to Ibeam Brooklyn with bashful, almost childlike charm. “Thank you, guys, for coming to my birthday party,” she murmured—then immediately undercut the air of naïveté with an incendiary burst of shrapnel-spewing intensity from her trumpet.

That uneasy balance of vulnerability and aggression seems to churn at the very core of Jaimie Branch. It’s certainly a vein she mines effectively in her music. Throughout her recent debut album, Fly or Die (International Anthem), named after the band she leads, Branch regularly wrings poignant, melodic order from turbulent chaos before inevitably decaying into turmoil again. She combines a tightrope-walking sense of adventure, a quality that made her a vital part of the Chicago avant-jazz scene for nearly a decade, with an electric virtuosity that’s landed her on tours with rock bands like TV on the Radio and Spoon.

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