Twenty-five year-old Jeremy Kittel plays with fast company. Classically-trained with a Masters degree in jazz violin from the Manhattan School of Music, Kittel has won multiple US National Scottish Fiddle Championships and performed over 1000 concerts as a soloist or guest artist. Currently he's part of the pioneering classical chamber music group, The Turtle Island Quartet.
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. "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. " Kittel admits. The results are both fresh and familiar.
For his first solo album Kittel chose his bandmates with an eye toward creativity and technical prowess. String Bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer joins Chris Thile and Mike Marshall and mandolins, Kyle Sanna on guitar, Natalie Hass on cello, Tyler Duncan on Bodhran, and Cali McKasson on piano to form a group that can turn on dime from Celtic to jazz to classical forms.
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.