Michigan’s Jeremy Kittel to Return to Manitou
By Ross Boissoneau | July 14, 2018
Fresh off a performance at Blissfest, violinist and fiddler Jeremy Kittel is returning to one of his favorite places to play: the Manitou Music Festival. “I’m excited for both,” he said from the road, prior to this past weekend’s annual celebration of folk and roots music at Blissfest. “I have a lot of fond memories of Blissfest, playing with various groups.”
The same is true of the Manitou Music Festival in tiny Glen Arbor. “I played the Dunes Concert some years back,” said Kittel, adding that the backdrop of the towering sand dunes was an inspiration for his night of music. He also enjoys the ambience of the intimate outdoor setting of the studio stage at Lake Street Studios.
The Michigan native is bringing with him his trio and a new set of tunes from the recently released album Whorls. Like much of his career, it encompasses multiple genres, from folk and bluegrass to jazz and classical, even pop sounds. In addition to a variety of moods and styles, for the first time Kittel is featuring his vocals.
One of the most striking tune on the album is “At Home in the World,” named after a collection of writing by Daniel Pearl. In addition to writing for numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Pearl was also a musician. He took his fiddle with him wherever he went on assignment, up to and including when he was kidnapped and murdered while in Pakistan. In his honor, luthier Jonathan Cooper crafted the Daniel Pearl Violin, which is presented to a camper at Mark O’Connor’s annual String Camp. Kittel was the first recipient, in 2003, and penned the song in Pearl’s memory.
Asked to choose a standout track, Kittel at first demurred, saying “They’re all pretty near and dear to my heart.” Ultimately he also cited “Ohmstead” and “Waltz” as among his favorites on the recording. “I love the way ‘Ohmstead’ keeps on developing and unraveling. ‘Waltz’ has some great vocals from Sarah Jarosz. The band’s performance was pretty wonderful.”
While the recording featured his quintet, he’s touring as a trio, mostly due to economics. He said a trio is the most compact format in which he can still get across the complexity and spirit of the music. “A five-and-a-half-week tour is most sustainable as a trio. Artistically it’s really great. We get to explore how the tunes sound during the Whorls tour,” he said.
Kittel said each live performance is its own animal, with its own energy. “I like the social interaction of the live show. The rooms are always different. It’s different from the studio where you’re trying to create that energy. They’re so different in function — a one-time event for the people who are there versus an album, which is eternal,” said Kittel.
Since graduating from the University of Michigan and then earning a Master’s in jazz performance at the Manhattan School of Music, Kittel has composed and arranged for such artists as Aoife O’Donovan, My Morning Jacket, Jars of Clay, and Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. He has also recorded with artists such as Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Mark O’Connor and Mike Marshall, and for five years was a member of the acclaimed Turtle Island Quartet. He left that group to focus on creating his own music.
Kittel and his trio mates, mandolinist Josh Pinkham (named “the future of the mandolin” by Mandolin Magazine) and genre-bending guitarist Quinn Bachand (a presidential scholar at Berklee College of Music), will perform July 18 at 8pm in Glen Arbor. Tickets are $18 for members, $20 for non-members. For tickets or more information, go to GlenArborArt.org and click on Manitou Music Festival.