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Chasing Sparks

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Praise for Chasing Sparks

Over an hour of fiddle music, from the devilish to the divine, played by a consummate musician whose style and repertoire sit somewhere between Nashville and Nairn.…Let me stress again that he is a brilliant and exciting young fiddler… More than half the material here is credited to Kittel, and there isn’t a weak link in the chain. It’s fresh, it’s fun, and it’s technically excellent… Chasing Sparks? Jeremy Kittel kicks up enough of his own.  Very highly recommended.  Alex Monoghan, Folk World Read full review

“Jeremy Kittel is at the Vanguard of a whole new movement in fiddle music. In times past fiddlers stayed within their assigned genres and didn’t manage to cross over very effectively. Jeremy is a new kind of hybrid musician that is equally versed and comfortable in many genres. He has a tremendous capacity to seamlessly blend inventive ideas and techniques from other genres into Irish and Scottish tunes. He does this with stunning virtuosity.” Martin Hayes

“From the opening track (the Celtic fiddle medley, “Taking it On/Up Downey/the Curious Beetle”), violinist and violist Jeremy Kittel (of the Turtle Island Quartet) brings on the heat in his solo album, Chasing Sparks (Compass).  There’s an all-star lineup of guests – including cellists Natalie Haas and Tristan Clarridge, fiddler Brittany Haas, bassist Edgar Meyer, and mandolinists Chris Thile and Mike Marshall – but the spotlight belongs to Kittel, one of the most accomplished and gifted string players of his generation. This is a fiddle disc that sizzles!” Greg Cahill, Strings magazine  ***EDITORS CHOICE***

“I believe the mixing of folk, Jazz and classical violin playing and composition is an ideal path for the 21st century string player, and it is one I have pushed for from the beginning. Jeremy Kittel has the insightful knowledge and training along with superb talent to give us some great examples of this cross-pollination.” Mark O’Connor

“The latest CD from Jeremy Kittel, released through Compass Records, is a perfect blend of fiddle goodness. Jeremy’s background in Scottish and Irish fiddle shines through each track and is uplifted by loops and swirls of Jazz and Folk woven throughout. This 25-year-old American’s prodigy and masterful understanding of music is obvious, making this a must-listen for any fiddle fan. The unique compositions of the songs on the album never stray too far from Celtic traditional style, however there is an exciting freshness to the songs that will keep listeners wanting more. If you’re up for some toe tapping, here’s a CD for you!” Reel Roots Folk Music Alliance

“…The music on Chasing Sparks crosses multiple musical boundaries. Classical formality meets new-age textures and modern acoustic jazz inflections. Some of the tunes, such as “Remember Blake,” remind me of Darol Anger and Barbara Higbie Quintet’s work on early Windham Hills’ releases. Other songs, like “The Chase” sound more like some of Mike Marshall’s forays into Brazilian Choro music. Still other tunes, like “Disconnect” point in the melodic direction of Chris Thile’s latest classical compositions. But regardless of the genre, all the music on Chasing Sparks displays a level of innovation and intelligence that is largely lacking from most contemporary music…  The recording’s quality reminds me of Chris Thile’s most recent release, Punch Brother’s Punch. Chasing Sparks sounds as if it was recorded in a large acoustically transparent space. The room’s natural reverberance gives the music the same level of immediacy you would hear at a live concert. And what a concert it is.” ✭✭✭✭ Steven Stone, enjoythemusic.com Read full review

The musicians

Jeremy Kittel, fiddle/violin
Edgar Meyer, bass
Chris Thile, mandolin
Mike Marshall, mandolin
Kyle Sanna, guitar
Bodek Janke, drumset & percussion
Tristan Clarridge, cello
Brittany Haas, fiddle
Natalie Haas, cello
Tyler Duncan, bodhran
Andrew Kratzat, bass
Cali McKasson, piano
Nic Gareiss, foot percussion

The story

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.”

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