First of all Cobrablade, welcome to the forum... At some point, it would be nice if you could drop down to the new members section and give us an introduction of yourself.. Around here, we try to help when we can, take what we need, and mess with each others mind when ever possible..
In watching one of those how to shows a while back, they put a rope over a large branch higher up (think they wrapped it around the upper branch twice) and the loose end down to the part they were cutting.. I'm sure they used some sort of slip knot so the more weight there was on the rope, the tighter it held on to the branch they were cutting.. 2 guys on the ground holding the rope (or in one case, tied off to a truck)... Once the branch section was cut, the guys on the ground lowered it down.. (not sure how they dealt with the one tied off to the truck.. Didn't make much sense to me in the first place)..
I watched one of the logging shows (I think it was American Loggers) a while back and they were doing a tree in a residential area.. They tied off a large branch, and the upper section of rope was tied off to the tree itself.. so that when it dropped, it fell against the main trunk.. then lowered it down from there.. Again, not sure what knots they used.. but lowered it down slowly and worked up the tree to the next large branch to remove...
I'm sure others that have more know how, will be along shortly..
Hope this helps some.. and again, welcome!
There isn't any handyman problem that a judicious amount of money can't fix... Bradford county Pa.