Fronted by acclaimed violinist Jeremy Kittel (formerly of the GRAMMY award-winning Turtle Island Quartet), contemporary string quintet Kittel & Co. has announced their ethos-centric debut album Whorls, out June 29 on Compass Records. Inhabiting the space between classical and acoustic roots, Celtic and bluegrass aesthetics, folk and jazz sensibilities, Whorls is an 11-track compilation of visceral, yet precise musicianship—accompanied on one track by the ghostly harmonies of Sarah Jarosz.
Kittel demonstrated a similar scope as a composer-arranger-collaborator for such diverse artists as My Morning Jacket, Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble, and Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn. Now, the Brooklyn-based artist has built his own repertoire of music for a wholly original new group.
Comprised of Kittel, mandolin phenom Josh Pinkham (named “the future of the mandolin” by Mandolin Magazine), genre-bending guitarist Quinn Bachand (a presidential scholar at Berklee College of Music), transcendent cellist Nathaniel Smith (as heard with Sarah Jarosz and Kacey Musgraves), and hammer-dulcimer wizard Simon Chrisman (acclaimed for bringing a new tonal flexibility to the instrument), Kittel & Co. captures a sonic landscape that is equally as unpredictable as it is captivating.
The group’s debut record Whorls refers to patterns of spirals, an apt metaphor for the undulation between the outsize skills and free-spirited instincts that drive its sound. The album’s first single “Pando” was originally written for the Detroit Symphony, and it was driven by a compelling violin melody that evolves from its timid entrance to urgent plight. The record’s scope ranges from buoyant rhythmic undercurrent of tracks like “The Boxing Reels” to the longingly bittersweet “Home in the World”—a song named in honor of the late journalist Daniel Pearl and a collection of his writings.
The concept of bringing people together underlies much of Whorls. “These instruments have a rich tradition of playing dance music; they were the way everyone got down, say, 150 years ago. Acoustic string bands in a room,” says Kittel. “Locking this in rhythmically and sonically, finding the balance of intensity—that’s been really exciting.”