Essential New Music: Jaimie Branch’s “Fly Or Die II: Bird Dogs Of Paradise”

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Whether you’re playing music or fighting for freedom, you have to be ready to go the distance. The 2017 debut album by Jaimie Branch’s Fly Or Die band came close to a knock-out punch. But there’s always the next gig, the next record and the next racist rally to contend with, and Fly Or Die II: Bird Dogs Of Paradise serves notice that Branch is ready on all fronts. It builds upon the long-form ambition and free jazz fire of its predecessor, adding explicit messages and exuberant, multi-cultural grooves.

In addition to her commanding trumpet playing and subliminal synth work, she’s a technically adept and emotionally undeniable singer, equally at home hollering dire warnings about wild-eyed racists on the 11-minute “Prayer For Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2” and crooning tenderness to people who just don’t deserve it on closer “Love Song.” In between those two tracks, Branch and crew use interlocking string patterns, seething drones and layers of percussion to dance the listener back and forth between inner space and an all-night party in the town square. These musicians are in it for the long haul, and this album will do wonders for the listener’s stick-to-it-tude. 

—Bill Meyer