Anteloper Credit: Zachariah Kobrinsky

Former Chicago trumpeter Jaimie Branch was one of last year’s big success stories in jazz. Her long-overdue debut as a leader, Fly or Die (International Anthem), captured her protean strength and melodic vision with stunning concision and soul, and synthesized some of her many musical interests into a cogent postbop direction that allowed for plenty of free expression. But Branch has endless curiosity about all sorts of music, and with Anteloper, a duo project with drummer Jason Nazary, she’s opened up fresh paths. On their brand-new debut, Kudu (International Anthem), they deliver a clear salute to the Chicago Underground Duo, aka cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor, whose agile performances Branch heard regularly when she still lived here. Branch and Nazary share instrumentation with that duo as well as a penchant for heavy electronic textures—synthesized bass lines, amorphous acidic squiggles, washes and counter-riffs—but Anteloper has a stronger pop drive. On “Oryx,” a descending electronic melody cycles over a heavy groove meted out by Nazary (who’s played free jazz with the likes of Darius Jones and Joe Morris), into which Branch bursts with a soaring, anthemic trumpet line that’s borne aloft by the repeating rhythms. The more open-ended “Fossil Record” places Branch’s probing horn against sputtering didgeridoo drones that help create a kind of trancelike ecstasy. On “Lethal Curve,” a dirgey, propulsive rhythm hammers on amid dive-bombing synth lines as Branch pushes her abstract horn improvisation toward the heavens with striated noise and piercing upper-register tones, and toward the end Nazary pitches down the groove like he’s running out of fuel.   v