Jeremy Kittel - Chasing Sparks
Jeremy Kittel says the centerpiece of his newest album, Chasing Sparks, grew with the 25 year-old fiddler/violinist/composer for years before finally gelling on the stage of Carnegie Hall. Kittel had the “aha” moment while playing his song “Disconnect” with some of the most dominant players in acoustic music: MacArthur “Genius” bassist Edgar Meyer, along with guitarist Kyle Sanna, an arranger for Yo-Yo Ma. Kittel, who is rapidly earning a reputation as one of the nation’s most creative young musicians, had parts of the melodies in his mind for years before the song found its own way in that moment on stage. The track found further depth in the recording process with mandolin prodigy Chris Thile.
“Disconnect” exemplifies the diversity of Kittel’s approach on Chasing Sparks, recorded over the course of two years and four cities – New York, Nashville, San Francisco and his hometown of Ann Arbor. Kittel, originally classically trained, has studied Irish, jazz, folk and traditional music – winning a host of varied awards. He’s won multiple US National Scottish Fiddle Championships, six Detroit Music Awards for Outstanding Folk Artist, Jazz Recording and Jazz Composer, a Masters of Jazz Violin from Manhattan School of Music, and a Stanley Medal from the University of Michigan School of Music to name just a few. He has performed over 1,000 concerts as soloist or guest, and is now part of the Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet.
One might expect the music to leap from one style to the next in a kind of overt demonstration of musical adventures. Instead, there is an uplifting fluidity to the sound of the music on this disc thanks not in least to contributions by some of the most highly regarded acoustic musicians around. In addition to the previous players mentioned, multi-instrumentalist wizard Mike Marshall (formerly of the David Grisman Quintet) also makes an appearance, as does the auspicious cello-fiddle duo of sisters Natalie and Brittany Haas (Alasdair Fraser’s musical partner, and Crooked Still band member, respectively).
But the core musicians on Chasing Sparks are Kittel’s own bandmates, who shine throughout. In addition to guitarist Sanna, there is also cellist Tristan Clarridge, who is a member of bluegrass sensation Crooked Still and is actually a three-time National Fiddle Champion himself. And cosmopolitan drummer Bodek Janke (he’s fluent in five languages) lends deep, visceral grooves with echoes of Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
Each track is woven with earthy, Celtic-inspired melodies; sometimes as a jumping-off point for intricate compositions; other times inducing heady improvisations; still other times maintaining a simpler, more traditional feel. And always, bounding above the expansive textures that pervade the album is the utterly searing optimism of Kittel’s violin.
“I wrote most of these tunes with no intention of combining styles – rather, they were just embellishments of melodies and sounds that were floating around in my head” says Kittel. “One of the toughest challenges for me is to learn to trust my instincts, my own judgment; but sometimes I don’t even hear those instincts – I’m not paying attention. I find that this is important when composing anything. You have to listen to your inner voice or you will miss it.”
“There is a completely overwhelming amount of great art and music, and it’s so accessible that it is impossible for me to ignore”, says Kittel. “I can be a bit quixotic for sure – I have plans to study Indian classical music, Western classical music, bluegrass and blues/rock language. In fact, I’ve just been transcribing Stevie Ray Vaughan this last week. It’s tricky on violin. Wish me luck.”
Jeremy Kittel's website: http://www.jeremykittel.com/holding/