On the heels of her release Love Spook
, vocalist Katie Bull has hooked up again with bassist Joe Fonda on Cup of Joe, No Bull
, a selection of standards and originals that the duo reduces to their bare essentials. Bull delivers a kind of relaxed, languid, yet lively kind of singing where the lyrics aren't sung so much as they burst from inside her. She sometimes wavers on the vocal high wire, but her verve is infectious.
Bull takes a two-pronged approach to the songs. She seems to presume that the listener knows the classics and will fill in the blanks as she scats along; she establishes her originals and the lesser known tunes a little more before stretching them out. Fonda's right with her on the bass, his pizzicato ranging from light love taps to solar plexus reverb. He even provides diffident background vocals on "Shortcut Blues, Bull's love/driving analogy.
This disc has its standout moments. Fonda's bass becomes something of a second vocalist on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, where Bull uses the title to whisper and drop some of the lyrics to underscore the meaning of the title. "Bluebird of Happiness is bright and optimistic, and Fonda is relentless on "When You Say You Will, his dynamic playing augmenting Bull's passionate interpretation of the poignant lyrics.
The duo hits its stride on "Since I Fell For You, with Bull's vocals expressing resignation but not anguish. "Speak Louder is an example of how Bull and Fonda fill in each other's spaces ably, and on "Wonderful World and "When I Fall In Love she's at her best, using her voice to shade the lyrics and take them just outside of their normal orbit while reining in the vocal calisthenics.
Personnel: Katie Bull: vocals; Joe Fonda: bass.