Trumpeter Jamie Branch announced her arrival on the modern jazz scene last year with an excellent debut album. She extends on that foundation here adding spoken word and vocals to her quiver and the participation of an excellent band, including Lester St. Louis on cello and percussion, Jason Ajemian on bass, percussion and vocals and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira and xylophone. On the track "prayer for amerikkka pt. 1 and 2" they are joined by special guests Ben LaMar Gay and Marvin Tate on vocals and Matt Schneider on 12-string guitar. The track itself is a very impressive piece of musical social commentary, with Branch alluding to the faltering nature of contemporary race relations in America by bursting out with the words "they've got a bunch of wide eyed racists!" The rest of the group fills in with call and response vocals and further asides, while Branch and the band build the music to a loose yet powerful format that is reminiscent of some early work from the Art Ensemble of Chicago. "twenty three n me, jupiter redux" uses subtle electronics and bowed cello to set the tone, before the rest of the band bursts in with colorful trumpet, drums and keyboards. They work up an exciting fanfare, then open the floor for some collective free playing for trumpet, cello and drums that is thrilling to hear. Deep cello is also used on "bird dogs of paradise" harmonizing with Branch's horn for a stoic sound, that resonates deeply. The assertive drums move in and add motion as the piece really begins to take off. Vocalizations from the band up the ante and everything falls into place with punchy trumpet leading the band into "nuevo roquero estereo" where the core trio develop a wonderful rhythmic sensation between them. Branch's playing sounds great, bold and brassy, carving up the space between the locomoting cello and drums, as Dan Britney and Scott McNiece adding extra percussion and synth to this epic and explosive track. The concluding "love song" is an absolute riot, with Branch clearing the the decks with a scouring burst of brass while dedicating the song to "assholes and clowns" and adding some invigorating trumpet soloing over roiling drumming and tight cello playing, it ends the album on the perfect bite of anti-sentimentality. This was an excellent album, Jamie Branch consolidated the successes she made with the last record and continued to make progress by asserting herself and creating a compelling and powerful statement. FLY or DIE II: bird dogs of paradise - amazon.com
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