Westbound Situation blends the precision of classical chamber music, the rhythmic drive of bluegrass, and the colorful expression of jazz into a new style of chamber music—chambergrass. The quartet—comprised of Grant Flick on violin, Matt Davis on banjo, Zach Brown on cello, and Jacob Warren on bass—mixes composition and improvisation seamlessly into their entirely memorized arrangements.
The group formed out of the 2016 Acoustic Music Seminar (AMS), a program run by multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall. The program accepts 16 talented string players under the age of 22 from around the world to participate in a week of intense improvisation, composition and performance training. All four were two time participants, an honor that not everyone is able to receive. Some notable AMS alumni include Paul Kowert of the Punch Brothers, Alex Hargreaves of Turtle Island String Quartet, and Xavier Foley, winner of the 2014 Sphinx Competition.
Westbound Situation has a strong commitment to music education. The group’s combined experience in classical, bluegrass, jazz, and original/improvised music is something not typically offered in the standard curriculum found at most schools and colleges (at least not all at the same time). These styles, among others, give each student the chance to make their own music, and through this process valuable lessons in creativity, listening, and leadership are achieved. Each member of the group maintains a private studio, and all have been invited to provide workshops and masterclasses at schools and festivals across the country.
Westbound Situation’s exciting and diverse concerts feature a set of unique original repertoire colored with recognizable standards from many genres. With bluegrass, classical chamber music, and jazz all coming together in the group’s concept of chambergrass, a Westbound Situation concert is dazzling musical journey not soon forgotten.
Warren & Flick explore the nuanced textures of a two person ensemble. Using both original material and arranged standards from many genres, this ensemble finds new depth in the simplicity of a duo. Jacob Warren plays double bass, while Grant Flick plays violin, tenor guitar and mandolin. Currently based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the two met at the 2015 Acoustic Music Seminar (AMS), a program accepting only sixteen young string players from around the world to participate in a week of intense, improvisation, composition and performance training. A part of the Savannah Music Festival in Georgia, AMS is led by multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall with the help of guitarist Julian Lage.
After discovering their shared musical interests, Jacob and Grant began collaborating as a duo as well as in a larger project called Westbound Situation, both of which are comprised of AMS alums. Grant currently attends the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, where he is a jazz studies major. Jacob graduated in 2019 from the University of Michigan with a Master of Music in Improvisation and a Master of Music in Chamber Music. Jacob also hold a Bachlor of Music in Double Bass Perfromance from U of M. Jacob and Grant spend much of their time arranging, composing and performing together. With Jacob’s classical foundation and Grant’s experience in bluegrass and jazz, their contrasting backgrounds give this collaboration a unique and compelling musical narrative.
“Some of the most engaging people I’ve ever worked with have a clear vision while still being willing to explore—following, with a rare openness, the creative energy.” — Jeremy Kittel
That ethos is central to the new release, Whorls, from Kittel & Co. The album’s title refers to patterns of spirals, an apt metaphor for the undulation between the outsize skills and free-spirited instincts that drive its sound. A dazzlingly original work, Whorls inhabits the space between classical and acoustic roots, Celtic and bluegrass aesthetics, folk and jazz sensibilities.
Previously of the Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet, Kittel demonstrated similar scope as a composer-arranger- collaborator for such diverse artists as My Morning Jacket, Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble, and Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn. But for the last few years, the Brooklyn-based artist has been diligently building his own repertoire of music for a wholly original new group.
Kittel & Co. includes 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 bassist Jacob Warren, and hammer-dulcimer wizard Simon Chrisman (acclaimed for bringing a new tonal flexibility to the instrument). “We met gradually over the years, through festivals, shows, gatherings,” Kittel says. “Each really struck me with their uniqueness, for being a singular force on their instrument.” These musicians are as prodigious as they are world class: Most aren’t even 30 years old.