International Anthem: Jaimie Branch’s ‘FLY or DIE LIVE’ is new album from the Brooklyn jazz renegade, after peerless ambient LP by Carlos Niño & Friends and Damon Locks’ sublime ‘Black Monument’

What an artist and what an event – International Anthem drop the digital recording of a masterpiece by Brooklyn-based trumpeter and singer Jaimie Branch – Her FLY or DIE LIVE is a double album recorded Live at Moods, Switzerland, capturing her quartet’s best-ever live performance. It’s another addition to the prolific label that continues to capture the spirit of our times through different styles. Branch’s musical backclashes against oppressive forces, punk attitude, as well as phenomenal jazz musicianship, made her previous albums totally essential.

Fellow stars such as Damon Locks and Angel Bat Dawid, among so many others in the International Anthem stable, are part of an awe-inspiring creative and cultural vanguard at the trail-blazing label.

FLY or DIE LIVE is out today via digital, with double-vinyl vinyl planned in July.  

Recorded January 23rd, 2020 – at Moods in Zurich – the album FLY or DIE LIVE documents Branch with her primary touring unit – featuring Chad Taylor on drums & mbira, Lester St. Louis on cello & percussion, Jason Ajemian on bass & vocals, and herself on trumpet & vocals. The performance captures the band at their peak, after several years of consistent touring in support of branch’s albums Fly or Die (2017) and Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise – and just before Covid-19.

“I didn’t have a memory of the show being an amazing show,” Jaimie Branch says (in Piotr Orlov’s writeup for IARC). “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 reviewed the concert recording for the first time, she was unequivocal: “I think this is like the best that we’ve ever played.”

Also capturing the spirit of our times, though in an altogther calmer and more soothing way – whereas Branch and others’ musical backclashes are direct, challenging and deeply rooted in jazz and activism – More Energy Fields, Current is an ambient masterpiece by Carlos Niño & Friends.

It’s one of the best ‘ambient’ albums of recent times – during a rise in ‘head music’ popularity, for a variety of reasons – while also being captivating and varied, pleasantly water-themed, holding together a finely crafted range of musical ideas on a ‘proper’ LP.

More Energy Fields, Current is definitely a new peak in the musical output of Niño, having created among some of the most exciting instrumentalists in Los Angeles, where he has been a central force for more than two decades.

The album is “Spiritual, Improvisational, Space Collage,” according to the prolific producer/percussionist. And it’s been highly praised by the New Age visionary, Iasos. It’s the real deal. He described it as: “Real Time Interactive Imagination, Flow Texturization.”

‘& Friends’ includes saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, Jamael Dean, multi-instrumentalists Sam Gendel and Nate Mercereau, Jamire Williams, Aaron Shaw and Devin Daniels.

Niño’s mentor Iasos is known to the world as an original founder of New Age music. His pioneering sound work is mythologic and legendary, culturally bound to the ambient music movement and cosmic scenes of California, Ibiza, and more.

And yet again on International Anthem, another seminal album emerged last month – Chicago’s Black Monument Ensemble shared – NOW – a multi-disciplinary project headed by Damon Locks, along with a wide-range of artists, musicians, singers, poets, perfomers and dancers.

These are seriously deep vibrations, channeling all sorts of emotions, drenched in the soul of Chicago, the poetry of luminaries, uplifting ideology and rooted in sublime spiritual jazz. 

The Chicago-based multimedia artist and activist uses sample-based sound collages, capturing the Black Monument Ensemble’s perspective of “the diverse wellspring of Black artistic excellence in Chicago”, all involved bring their unique perspectives and experiences to this project.

Current and consistent BME members include: musicians Angel Bat Dawid, Ben LaMar Gay, Dana Hall, and Arif Smith; singers Phillip Armstrong, Monique Golding, Rayna Golding, Tramaine Parker, Richie Parks, Erica Rene, and Eric Tre’von; and dancers Raven Lewis, Cheyenne Spencer, Mary Thomas, Bryonna Young, Tiarra Young, and Keisha Janae.

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