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Bull Fonda Duo: Cup of Joe, No Bull

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This is the third Katie Bull album that I've heard, and her work is very consistent. The New York-based singer divides her time between traditional jazz vocals and outside vocal excursions. This is the sparest of the sessions in that it is a duo recording of just voice and acoustic bass, without the added cushion of piano and drums. According to the liner notes, Katie Bull's partner, bassist Joe Fonda, is a like-minded soulmate who shares the same sense of improvisation and exploration. Fonda was present on the previous Bull albums and worked in the recent past with avant-garde musicians like Anthony Braxton.

One could generalize by saying that the eight standards on the album are taken in a mainstream fashion while the five Bull originals are employed as free jazz vocals. Katie Bull's direct approach on such tunes as "I Could Have Danced All Night," "When I Fall in Love," and "Since I Fell For You" is really quite good. "Bluebird of Happiness," a favorite of Betty Carter, is given a similar reading. "Midnight Sun" is taken way up-tempo much as a tenor saxophonist might perform it to close the first set.

I've noted in the past that Katie Bull seems most influenced by the style of Sheila Jordan, and that is indeed still present. On her originals, beginning with "Love Spook" (also the title of her last album), the quirky lyrics serve as a springboard for her imagination, which seems matched by Fonda's accompaniment and solos. "Monkey Business," styled as a children's song, offers an opportunity to take the music out a bit further.


Track Listing: I Could Have Danced All Night; Love Spook; Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars; Shortcut Blues; I'm Old Fashioned; Monkey Business; Bluebird of Happiness; When You Say You Will; When I Fall In Love; Midnight Sun; Speak Louder; Since I Fell For You; Wonderful World.

Personnel: Katie Bull: vocals; Joe Fonda: bass.

Title: Cup of Joe, No Bull | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Corn Hill Indie

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