In a very effective jazz arranging technique for introductions, the vocalist starts a capella and the bass enters immediately. The two duet with one another for a chorus, at which time the whole ensemble joins the fray. This is a nice touch, adding a bit of tension and expectation to the natural swing of a piece. Cup of Joe, No Bull is an entire recording of this sort of bass-voice tension. It works, for the most part. The straight-ahead pieces like the opening "I Could Have Danced All Night and the closing "Wonderful World do come off well. The more rhythmically experimental pieces like "Love Spook and "Shortcut Blues offer a bit of a challenge. But with Katie Bull and Joe Fonda, that is what we should expect.
Bull's previous recordings, Love Spook and Conversations with the Jokers, both featuring Fonda, were well received in these pages, both displaying Bull's wicked wit and range. When stripped down to a duo with the bassist, composer, and arranger, anything can and does happen. Capable of playing it straight, Fonda is most comfortable on the alpha edge of music, as demonstrated on his sides with Anthon Braxton, particular The Charlie Parker Project 1994. The duo makes a difficult format work well enough to be provocative and compelling.