BEST NEW RELEASES OF 2011-HONORABLE MENTION, The New York City Jazz Record
BEST NEW RELEASES OF 2011- AIM RADIO "...a career that can only be described as singular... think of vocalist Katie Bull as a jazz prism, refracting musical light in endlessly unpredictably ways." Christopher Louden, JazzTimes Nov.1/11
STORY, SO FAR" - CHOSEN for JAZZ IMPROV TOP CDs 2007
"..Bull gets it right...'it' being something wholly
undefined and unconventional."
(Suzanne Lorge - The New York CIty Jazz Record (formerly
AllAboutJazz-NY) Vox News Sept. 07)
vocalist Katie Bull just never lets you down with her insightful
CD projects...She & the groups she puts together seem supreme......feelings
range from positive tension, relaxation, expectancy, & fulfillment...
...fine treatment and vocalise...intimate interaction of folks &
forces... ...a pleasurable musical journey..."
(George W. Carroll/The Musicians' Ombudsman)
"...(a) prodigiously talented singer...Bull sings in a warm, smooth
voice that will remind some of Sarah Vaughan and others, interestingly,
of the young Chet Baker - at least until she starts to scat, at
which point her rhythmic adventurousness and unusual syllabic choices
make it clear that she is approaching this repertoire with an agenda
all her own...a promising debut from a significant talent."
(Rick Anderson - AMG 2003)
Bull - Conversations with the Jokers
(Corn Hill Indie)
of pianists, there are probably more female vocalists working in
jazz then any other type of performer. But when counting the truly
adventurous singers, that list becomes amazingly short. With Katie
Bull's debut recording, Conversations with the Jokers on the Corn
Hill Indie label, a new name can be added.
a passing glance at the histories of her outstanding sidemen - pianist
Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Lou Grassi
- will tell you that this is not your typical singer's trio accompaniment.
With names like Anthony Braxton, Roswell Rudd, Makanda Ken McIntyre,
Perry Robinson, Charles Gayle, Thomas Chapin, Sheila Jordan and
Dave Douglas among their credits, these three men have worked with
some of the most adventurous jazz artists of the past four decades.
typical accompaniment is clearly not the desired result. One of
the primary characteristics of the jazz avant-garde - the somewhat
inaccurate description that serves as a catchall for those who have
extended the jazz tradition over the past 40 years - is the group
interplay that supersedes the standard soloist-over- rhythm-section
of the mainstream jazz style.
Conversations with the Jokers, that ensemble interplay is in full
blossom, in keeping with the manner set forth by the peerless genius
of the late Betty Carter. Like Betty, Katie approaches every song
in a unique manner; sometimes deconstructed at the outset and stated
later on; other times offered in snippets throughout the piece -
but always tightly interwoven with the trio, and drawing every nuance
from the lyrics.
for her sound, a wisp of Ella Fitzgerald here, a hint of Sarah Vaughan
there, a few drops of Jeanne Lee and even a smidgen of June Christy
may come to mind, but Katie's sound is hers alone. The influence
of her "jazz mothers" (as she calls them) Sheila Jordan
and Jay Clayton, are there as well, in the great jazz tradition
of providing a launching pad for her own singular explorations.
excellent selection of material is culled from where the Great American
Song Book interfaces with classic jazz repertoire. One exception
is See Through You, a delightful original blues duet by Katie and
Fonda, where her voice snakes sinuously in free time around Joe's
rock-solid funky bass line.
duet by the pair - who sound like they've always played together
- is a gently swinging version of the Van Heusen/Burke classic Like
Someone in Love that closes the album. And the same songwriters'
beautiful Moonlight Becomes You is given a lovely, straightforward
treatment, adding Stevens' piano to the mix.
exciting and darkly luminous piano style could be overpowering for
most vocalists, but for Katie, he's an ideal choice. His abstract
intro and edgy, jaggedly rhythmic thrust makes My Little Boat a
most unusual bossa nova, providing a perfect setting for Katie's
his fiery solo on the powerfully driven You're Everything sets the
table for Katie's explosive vocal, spurred on by Grassi's fiercely
swinging drums. Grassi also offers a master class in the slow boil,
with layer upon layer of polyrhythms opening a steamy version of
the Dietz/Schwartz standard You and the Night and the Music, with
brilliant brushwork under the sizzling piano solo and vocal improvisation.
Cole Porter's What Is This Thing Called Love? Katie exhibits her
straight ahead jazz chops in a style that would make Ella smile.
And her take on Eddie Jefferson's lyrics to Charlie Parker's be-bop
anthem Now's the Time pays homage to both without even a whisper
taking an oft-played piece and making it all her own, Antonio Carlos
Jobim's Wave creates a unique, highly evocative mood, with Katie's
gently probing vocal over Fonda's suspended ostinato, only moving
into the familiar samba on the bridge.
out the album are I Remember You, with its easy groove and dazzling
interplay, and a breathtakingly beautiful rendition of I'm Glad
There Is You.
is not an album by a singer with rhythm accompaniment. It's ensemble
music in its purest form, filled with extraordinary solos, incredible
interaction, and amazing rapport by remarkable musicians who clearly
delight in each other's company.
Katie Bull, Conversations with the Jokers displays another side
of this multi-faceted artist. As vocalist, she's performed with
both Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton, Kirk Nurock's Natural Sound,
and noted composer Julius Eastman, among others. The daughter
of Detroit-born jazz pianist and post-modern improvisational dancer/choreographer
Richard Bull, and stepdaughter of the noted dancer/choreographer
and dance anthropologist Cynthia Jean Cohen Bull (aka Cynthia
Novack), Katie has also written, directed, produced and performed
in numerous inter-arts performance works for her company, the
Bull Family Orchestra. She is also an innovative vocal production
coach, working with a physical approach to the spoken word.
Hill Indie is distributed by North Country Cadence Bldg. Redwood,
T: 315-287-2852 / F: 315-287-2860 www.cadencebuilding.com
spirited jazz vocalist Katie Bull expands the view of her distinctive
talent on Love Spook, her second album
for Corn Hill Indie. On her debut release, Conversations
With The Jokers, Bull, who shows the tonal and
rhythmic influences of musical matriarchs Jay Clayton and Sheila
Jordan, exhibited a convincing ability to bring a fresh approach
to her interpretations of classic material from the Great American
Songbook, leading AllAboutJazz to
predict that the young singer, would "be a force to be
reckoned with in vocal jazz.” On Love Spook
Bull, who shows an enormous amount of respect for both innovation
and the tradition, demonstrates just how strong that force is
on a program of a dozen songs about intimacy, loss, and discovery.
The program is divided equally between uniquely personal originals
and timeless standards she grew up loving and describes as “chambers
of my own heart”.
dichotomy of Bull’s style is evident in her choice to
use two different rhythm sections, united by drummer Matt Wilson,
whose desire to record some of the singer’s songs served
as the impetus for the project. The trio with the piano/bass
team of Frank Kimbrough and Martin Wind flows seamlessly in
the proverbial pocket, while the other with her regular bandmates
Michael Jefry Stevens and Joe Fonda always seem to take it slightly
out - pushing at the edges of the same pocket. Bull’s
voice blends beautifully with both as she bares her soul, singing
with a sound that is simultaneously sensual and spiritual.
Spook opens with Wind’s ominous sounding
bass line and Wilson’s rattling rim shots evincing the
title track’s conveyance of the feelings of impending
danger that can often accompany romantic connections. Bull’s
powerful voice is full of a drama befitting her background in
experimental theatre as she recites her enlightening lyric about
a love lost and found, revealing her remarkable range as she
plumbs the depths of her emotions with a fullbodied vibrato
and then soars to her highest note as she sings the word sky.
offers listeners some pleasant insights into her personality
with the words to her vamp intro for My Favorite Things,
singing about a “cherry tomato (that) explodes in my mouth”
and “whole flocks of whales as they sing their way south”
over Wilson’s staccato frame drum tapping before smoothly
segueing into Oscar Hammerstein’s well known lyric. Kimbrough
solos beautifully on Richard Rodgers familiar melody, displaying
his own fully developed style before referencing McCoy Tyner’s
stylings on the classic version with John Coltrane. Bull who
has her own rhythmic way with words, also shows a strong affection
for Betty Carter’s idiosyncratic interpretation of the
a second Bull original, demonstrates the singer’s philosophy
that there can be a special beauty in the simplicity of some
songs. The piece begins with her dueting with Wilson’s
malleted tom toms, intoning a wordless reading of the melody
before going into the lyric, which paints a flowing impressionistic
picture of an experience using very few words
slowly sings long legato lines on Lerner and Lane’s On
A Clear Day, stretching out like the horizon depicted in
the song’s lyrics. Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens the singer’s
regular pianist, provides sensitive minimalist accompaniment,
allowing her voice to shine in the sympathetic setting.
Run’s words come from a skiing “lesson”
Bull’s young daredevil daughter and son gave their mother
when they were all just learning last year. Bull sees the sport
as a metaphor for love. She says, “It’s fun and
daring … Are you going to pull back? Are you going to
let go? Are you willing to take the risk? Are you daring enough
to risk falling?” Her fearless improvising here displays
an almost acrobatic athleticism, screaming the words “it’s
like flying” while Stevens, Wilson and Fonda (in particular,
bowing below the bass’s bridge) offer some daring sounds
of their own.
Blues is Bull’s sexy sounding silly inventory of
an almost barren refrigerator. On this one the soulful singer
shows when you look at the world with the right attitude, just
about anything is worth singing about. Kimbrough, Wind and Wilson
all get to dig in on this one, offering up some of the date’s
best straight ahead playing.
maintains her playful tongue in cheek attitude on I Only
Have Eyes For You, affecting a coquettish tone on a bossa
nova arrangement that features some outlandish scatting to Wilson’s
dancing latin rhythms. Kimbrough shines as he shows himself
to be equally skilled at comping and soloing and Wind supplies
some superbly supportive bass work on this one.
There’s a touch of sadness in the beautiful warm sound
of Bull’s voice on her respectful reading of the ballad
I’ll Be Seeing You. The song’s melancholy
mood, evident from the first notes of Kimbrough’s introductory
chorus, is maintained throughout the performance, right up to
the piano’s closing notes.
date’s bright outlook returns on Michel Legrand’s
Watch What Happens with Bull singing Normal Gimbel’s
optimistic words with a happy spirit, at times reminiscent of
Ella Fitzgerald in her scatting. Stevens and Fonda show that
despite their earned reputations as leading members of the avant
garde, that they are both capable of surefooted swinging.
Rag is an absurdist piece with a Brechtian tone. The singer
confesses to imagining herself dutifully reciting her words
by rote while in the center of the circus like atmosphere that
is conveyed by Wilson’s arsenal of percussive toys. Stevens
and Fonda’s experimentalist background serve them well
on this intentionally dissonant interpretation of the classic
takes Surrey With The Fringe On The Top at a very slow
tempo that brings out the romance in the words that is often
lost as most singers race through the chord changes. The sound
of Sarah Vaughn is present in her voice here, inspiring the
trio to turn in a particularly moving performance, with Stevens
remarkably like Bill Evans.
concluding Ashokan Road was written by Bull with the
words “something dies, something else is born” which
she employed to explain to her daughter that she wasn’t
killing some lavender when cutting back the plant. After the
tragedy of 9/11 the lyric took on a new meaning that can be
felt in this version. The song begins somberly with Fonda’s
arco bass, but moves on to an optimistic tone with Stevens’
latin vamp before resolving in a pensive mood.
Bull is a singer who is capable of creating the kind of music
that has real meaning in today’s world. She has the courage
to tackle the contradictions inherent in love and life and the
talent that gives her the ability to sing old songs in new ways.
Love Spook offers music that is full
of fun and relevance. Its an important step on Katie Bull’s
road to successfully sharing her considerable gift with a world
she sees illuminated by the light of her own very creative insights.
Hill Indie is distributed by North Country Cadence Bldg. Redwood,
T: 315-287-2852 / F: 315-287-2860 www.cadencebuilding.com
the two years since she has begun recording, Katie Bull
has proven herself to be "a force to be reckoned
with in vocal jazz.” On her first two Corn Hill Indie
albums, Conversations With The Jokers
and Love Spook, Bull demonstrated
a strong foundation in the music’s tradition, as well
as the powerful will and desire to expand it, blending adventurous
original material with her own uniquely personal interpretations
of classics from the Great American Songbook. Now, on CUP
OF JOE, NO BULL, she demonstrates the depth of
her commitment to her artistic philosophy, baring her soul in
an intimate musical conversation with bassist Joe Fonda, as
she continues to combine her own compelling compositions with
music from the standard jazz repertoire.
best known for his work with Anthony Braxton and Bill Dixon,
appeared on Bull’s two previous releases and shares the
singer’s interdisciplinary approach to creativity and
her forward looking view of jazz. On Conversations
With The Jokers the bassist and vocalist recorded
two duets – a straight ahead reading of Like Some One
In Love and a daring spontaneously improvised collaboration
they called See Through You. On this new date they continue
exploring the vast potential first displayed on those two contrasting
numbers. Expertly recorded by the late great engineer David
Baker, CUP OF JOE, NO BULL is a disc
of rare intimacy and sincerity.
date begins appropriately with I Could Have Danced
All Night, a fitting metaphor for the duo collaboration.
Bull opens with a straightforward reading of the lyric to the
Lerner and Lowe classic over Fonda’s melodic bass and
follows with a distinctive scatted second chorus revealing the
influence of the great Betty Carter. Fonda’s solo displays
a beautiful tone and marvelous musicality that understandably
inspires the singer’s creativity.
introduces Love Spook with a one minute
twenty second virtuoso solo bass recital and smoothly segues
into the ominous bass line of the Bull composition that was
the title track of her previous disc. The song’s unabashedly
sensual lyric takes on an even more intimate character in the
duo setting and the singer reveals the full range of her voice,
including a breathy tonality and a stratospheric reading the
word “sky” that she transforms into a transcendental
Carlos Jobim’s Quiet Night of Quiet Stars
(Corcovado) is treated to a romantic reading revealing
the emotional depth of Bull’s singing. Fonda’s full
toned bass wraps the singer’s sweet intonation in a warm
embrace that conjures up the image of two lovers gazing at the
celestial beauty of the Brazilian night.
Blues is a Bull original that shows her to be
an excellent interpreter of the classic American idiom. The
lyric, ostensibly about a highway traffic jam, is full of sexual
double entendre displays the singer’s appealing sense
and Fonda take Johnny Mercer and Jerome Kern’s I’m
Old Fashioned at a breakneck tempo, demonstrating
their technical facility with the standard jazz repertoire and
a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards the title. These two
may be old fashioned, but they are also modern and daring as
their exciting finish shows.
Business is a Bull original in the form of a child’s
song. She uses the simple line as a springboard for some of
the album’s most daring free improvisation
opens Bluebird of Happiness acappella,
stretching out the words in long searching legato lines before
Fonda joins her and the two go skipping along on their blissful
quest. Fonda solos with confidence and Bull scats a chorus in
a distinctive style reflecting the influence of her mentors
Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan.
You Say You Will reveals Bull’s ability
to make music out of real life situations. The lyric, improvised
over Fonda’s original bass line, is constructed from kind
of “interrogation” a lover might engage in when
questioning a late returning partner.
swings straight ahead on When I Fall In Love,
singing the words with a believable sincerity that draws the
listener into her world and brings the song to life.
Sun is one of the great Johnny Mercer’s
most beautifully ornate lyrics. Bull takes her time with the
words, clearly enunciating them in her most attractive voice,
basking in their warmth as Fonda masterfully accompanies her,
intoning the changes to the popular Sonny Burke-Lionel Hampton
Speak Louder is another original
in which she transforms everyday conversation into song. The
lyrics to this one come from a didactic discussion with a “little
sister” in which she imparts the advice to go slow --
presumably in matters of the heart.
I Fell For You kicks off with a reading of the
rarely performed verse about “when you just give love
and never get love” before launching into the well known
lyric. Fonda again reveals his affinity for the blues soulfully
accompanying Bull as she delivers one of her most emotional
performances of the date.
date concludes with What A Wonderful World.
Bull sings the ode to optimism with a reverential tone that
is full of hope and conviction, emphasizing the songs positive
message. Fonda, the perfect partner, hangs on her every note,
providing the sympathetic support that is key to the success
of the whole date.
vocal-bass configuration is a rare and difficult setting for
a singer to sustain for a whole album’s worth of material.
On Cup Of Joe, No Bull Katie Bull
and Joe Fonda show that they have the immense talent and vision
it takes to make it work. Presenting a wide range of material
with a variety of approaches these two creative spirits come
together and make it seem natural.
Hill Indie is distributed by North Country Cadence Bldg. Redwood,
T: 315-287-2852 / F: 315-287-2860 www.cadencebuilding.com
The Story So Far
Corn Hill Indie 1004
Street Date November 1, 2007
Katie Bull, vocals, Frank Kimbrough, piano, Michael Jefry Stevens,
piano, Joe Fonda, bass
Matt Wilson, drums, Harvey Sorgen, drums, Jeff Lederer, Saxophones,
David CasT, Saxophones,
David Phelps, guitar
The Story So Far, the latest chapter
in the exciting tale of multitalented vocalist/ lyricist/composer
Katie Bull, chronicles the evolution of one of the most individual
and exciting singers in music today - a truly unique artist
whose widely acclaimed authoritative and attractive voice is
but one component of her far reaching creative spirit. Exquisitely
packaged, The Story So Far, includes
a CD of Bull’s latest musical creations, an accompanying
fourteen page booklet with artwork drawn from ancient story
books and gothic fairy tales and lyrics to each of her original
pieces, paired with a DVD with the Bull Family Orchestra, an
inter-arts theatre ensemble, performing a freely structured
improvisational ”happening” on a cobblestoned Soho
street, that documents Bull’s role as a leading member
of New York City’s downtown avant garde arts scene.
Bull is first and foremost a “jazz singer” and The
Story So Far places her squarely in the forefront
of the tradition of improvising vocalists that extends from
Billie Holiday and Betty Carter to Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton.
Joined by a revolving cast of sympathetic players that includes
pianists Frank Kimbrough and Michael Jefrey Stevens, bassist
Joe Fonda, drummers Matt Wilson and Harvey Sorgen, saxophonists
Jeff Lederer and David CasT and guitarist David Phelps, Bull
demonstrates a free spirited approach to singing that winds
her voice around the players’ music, making her colleagues
more collaborators than mere accompanists.
The disc opens dramatically with Bull’s Which?,
a raucous straight ahead romp through the standard AABA song
form featuring Lederer’s tenor saxophone with the Kimbrough-Fonda-Wilson
rhythms section. Katie proves that she can swing with the best
of them in her commanding reading of her inquisitive lyric on
the subject of dichotomous personalities and her cooing scatting
on the piece’s appealing bridge. The music confirms her
status as a talented composer and arranger – hearkening
to the spirit of Charles Mingus with Lederer’s guttural
sax leaping out of ensemble a la Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin,
while the band shouts out encouragement in a manner recalling
the great bassist’s exhortations.
A Song For Hudson’s Heart smoothly segues in
over the strangely soothing thunderous sound of Nick Brough’s
ultra harmonizer, setting the scene for this beautiful lullaby.
A duet with pianist Michael Jeffrey Stevens, the music is at
times reminiscent of Thad Jones’ classic “A Child
Is Born,” an appropriate setting for Bull’s tender
recitation of a mother’s comforting words for her drowsy
Katie delivers a fresh, intimate reading of the classic of For
All We Know, interacting with the trio of Stevens, Fonda
and Sorgen in a daring fashion that recalls the remarkable rapport
that Betty Carter developed with her bands. Bull’s reimagining
of the standard demonstrates her status as a forward thinking
traditionalist who is not afraid to take chances and move the
music into the future.
Twisted, the popular Annie Ross/Wardell Gray page out
of the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross songbook that was later revived
by Joni Mitchell is given a clever treatment here, with Bull
overdubbing her vocal in deference to the song lyric’s
subject of dual personality. Bull and the band swing like mad
here with Kimbrough and Lederer sharing solo space with the
Bull’s original Half Full begins ominously with
David CasT’s baritone sax and Joe Fonda’s bass setting
the tone for the singer’s portentous reading of her mysterious
imagistic lyric and her extraordinary ethereal scatting.
Next Generation’s Doodlin’ is Bull’s
version of vocalese, a tribute to Annie Ross, whose original
Doodlin’ is one of her all time favorite pieces.
Like Hudson’s Heart, the lyrics tell a story
inspired by one of Katie’s children – this one by
her precocious daughter Hannajane. Like the wandering mind of
a young child, the song is full of mood changes, moving from
the silly to the serious and back at the jump of a hat.
Guitarist David Phelps joins Bull for an atmospheric duet on
her Paleontology. The incongruously titled love song
showcases the composer’s flair for metaphor, reflecting
her insightful outlook into everyday occurrences. Phelps’
spare background creates an absorbing environment in which the
beauty and expressiveness of Katie’s voice comes to the
I Should Have Noticed brings back the Kimbrough-Fonda-Wilson
trio with Lederer’s wailing soprano sax for a powerful
piece that showcases the strength of Bull’s full bodied
instrument. Her words recount the uncanny clarity with which
previously overlooked details of a decaying romance are seen
come to light in hindsight.
The Bull-Fonda Duo, previously heard on Katie’s release
Cup Of Joe, No Bull, is heard again
here on Go Ahead. The song, which the singer was prompted
to compose by her experience of witnessing Donald Trump build
along the Hudson River on New York City’s west side, blocking
the beautiful view of the water for thousands of citizens, is
another indication of Bull’s proclivity for addressing
socio-political issues in her music.
Topanga Canyon is one of the date’s true high
points. Inspired by the natural beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains’
peaceful oasis, it begins with Bull intoning a long low Ohm
over Fonda’s bowed bass as a contrasting introduction
to the memorable melody that she sings with joyous abandon.
Stevens gets a chance to stretch with a powerful piano solo
driven by Sorgen’s insistent rhythms before Bull’s
vocal spirals out into space and returns to the opening Ohm.
Lederer begins Harry Warren’s There Will Never Be
Another You with an inventive soprano solo that introduces
Bull’s swinging interpretation of the classic that includes
some impressive scatting and an imaginative dialogue with saxophonist,
placing her squarely at the forefront of the lineage of creative
Bull’s Jack is a new composition on which she
recalls the sultry songbird stylings of singers like Peggy Lee
and Anita O’Day. Cool and commanding, Katie moves freely
between an earthy classic sound and spacey avant garde explorations,
with CasT’s wailing tenor and Phelps’ fuzz toned
guitar reinforcing the respective approaches.
The date’s regular program concludes with Wake Up
Time, a message for America’s president sung, inspired
by a New York Times article about a brain damaged GI returned
from Iraq, in a theatrical style reminiscent of the work of
Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht with CasT’s polka influenced
baritone line creating the circus like atmosphere that is appropriate
to the song’s ludicrous subject and Bull’s closing
ranting chant of “no weapons of mass destruction.”
Four bonus tracks comprising Katie’s “Dream Cycle”
end the disc. Accompanied by pianist Theo Hill and a string
quartet arranged by Jeff Lederer, the suite offers a contrasting
and complementary view to the songs of Bull’s waking life
and sets up the listener for viewing the release’s accompanying
DVD documenting a sixties styled happening enacted by the Bull
Family Orchestra on the streets of Soho. The film by Peter Richards,
who was once a dancer in Bull’s father company and has
filmed Trisha Brown, Urban Bush Women and the Dance Theatre
Workshop's many productions, was improvised guerilla style to
cinematically capture the multimedia Downtown Happening that
flowed out of the truncated tale written by Bull that gives
the CD’s title, to the soundtrack of Bull singing Richard
Rodgers’ “Lover” and “Some Enchanted
The Story So Far is the newest installment
in the ever growing body of work developed by Katie Bull during
her years performing around New York. Jazz singer, avant garde
vocalist, musician, dancer, story teller, actor and writer,
Bull herself is an ever growing work in progress making an important
statement on the arts scene that is informed by a philosophy
best embodied by the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King’s Remaining Awake recited
on the DVD and reprinted in the CD booklet: “We are tied
together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality.” Katie Bull’s art is an important
component in that network; beautiful fabric in the garment of
destiny. She is a woman with a story to tell that reaches so
far. Listen and watch her and she’ll take you to familiar
places you’ve never been to before.