“I Mean Every Note I Play”: Remembering Trumpeter Jaimie Branch


Photo via Peter Gannushkin

jaimie branch, an avant-garde trumpeter, composer, and lover of music died on August 22, 2022, in her Brooklyn apartment. branch’s death was announced by International Anthem and in accordance with her family, no cause of death was provided. She was 39.

branch was a monumental aspect of the contemporary jazz world. Her style cultivated technically advanced improvisation with artistic and emotionally evoking messages. She often would start playing with very simple long tones that exploded into complex and gripping improvisation. branch’s music was a whole-body experience. As jaimie branch once said, “Music is […] one of the most beautiful parts of life.” Her humanitarian messages, feverish improv, and utter passion for music pulled any listener deep into the musical world she created. 

Her discography is composed of a plethora of musical collaborations such as work with Spoon, Jeff Parker, James Brandon Lewis, Tv On The Radio, and Anteloper. branch’s solo albums include Fly or Die, and Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise.

Anteloper – “Seclusion Self”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hoicxt8SMI&t=211s 

jamie branch and Jason Nazary playing together as Anteloper

Anteloper – “Earthlings”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TDLsUlHM8o 

jaimie branch’s solo albums explore the trumpet’s role in music and expression. She dove deeply into the trumpet every time she picked it up. “All the music that ever was and ever will be is here now. It exists in a cloud just above our heads and when we play, we pluck it out of the ether for a lil while before sending it back up,” branch stated. Both Fly or Die and Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise are critically acclaimed albums and have been quintessential contributions to contemporary jazz.

Fly or Die mini documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSC4jQR-3Ko&t=417s 

“prayer for amerikkka pt. 1 & 2” live:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2WTLKvbhWA&t=3s

branch has also contributed much more than music to contemporary jazz. Her authenticity and passion for music gave so much to the jazz community. Alabaster DePlume, an English saxophonist, said, “Things were always more exciting when Jaimie was around, but also somehow tender – more real and down to earth, but also more grand and epic and noble.”

I got to meet jaimie branch at an Anteloper concert last July. Before she played, she walked around the venue and talked to everyone there. She had on her usual attire of an oversized Mets jersey, sideways hat, and Adidas sneakers. I talked to her while she was running her own merch stand. As a trumpet player myself, we shared experiences about the trumpet and spoke of sexism in the jazz world. branch said to me, “It’s not been an easy life at all. But if you’re doing what you love, it’s worth it. It all works out.” Her actual quote had about 8 uses of the f-word, but her genuine interest in talking to me and everyone else at the show really struck me. It was obvious to me that jaimie branch didn’t care that she was running her own merch stand at a small venue with a tiny amount of people, but rather that she was doing the thing she loved most: sharing music with others.

That night Anteloper played until 1:00 am and left the crowd speechless. The vulnerability jaimie branch amplified with the trumpet was thrown right into the guts and hearts of everyone watching. branch’s passion was so unapologetically inspirational, not just to me, but to so many others. Her talent has had a profound effect on me, the jazz community, and contemporary music. While she will be missed, her music and character will continue to inspire and shape musicians and their art.