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 of humor.
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 melody.
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
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.
Alert: Katie Bull/Joe Fonda Cup of Joe, No Bull Bull Fonda Duo | Corn
of Joe, No Bull
Bull Fonda Duo | Corn Hill Indie
C. Michael Bailey
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
straightahead 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.
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.
article on the NY Press, previewing The Bull Fonda Duo at Cornelia Street
Cafe in NY.
July 07, 8:30 & 10
Katie Bull and bassist Joe Fonda have chosen a minimalist approach for
their third collaboration, Cup of Joe, No Bull (Corn Hill Indie), by
recording an entire album featuring only Fonda’s bass as accompaniment
to Bull’s voice. “The bass is an instrument I love,”
said Katie Bull in a recent phone interview. The concept was born while
they were working on an earlier project, and decided to jam it out without
waiting on classifieds to beef up their lineup. That session developed
into an entire album, which bears some very personal takes on standards
such as “I Could Have Danced All Night” (from My Fair Lady),
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,”
and some lesser-known jazz songs that have touched the duo, alongside
a few original compositions. Katie Bull and Joe Fonda met in 1999, and
recorded together for the first time in the summer of 2001. “We
were working in a dance situation at the time, and we developed the
relationship. We did some voice movement, and some playful, unplanned
interaction, and that’s how it’s been,” said Bull.
Whatever. Their music is much more listenable. “A song can be
overdone,” she tried to explain, and with that in mind, they approached
each cut as if it was their own original. As a result, Heyman/Young’s
“When I Fall In Love” (made famous by Nat King Cole) sounds
completely spring-fresh, as does the under-recorded Johnny Mercer masterpiece
“I’m Old-Fashioned.” “These older tunes are
gems,” says Bull. “Joe is so wide open, that anything comes
new.” The only thing on the album even mildly cringe-inducing
is their version of the Weiss/Douglas “It’s a Wonderful
World,” the oft-remade Louis Armstrong hit. Although their rendition
sounds sincere enough, the song has just been K-martized too much. Like
Soul on Aisle 12. That is, however, a minor blemish on a remarkable
recording that celebrates the conceptual vision of two musicians who
manage to work, and swing, together incredibly well.
St. Cafe, 29 Cornelia St. (6th Ave.), 212-989-9318; 8:30 & 10, $12
Alert: Katie Bull/Joe Fonda Cup of Joe, No Bull Bull Fonda Duo | Corn
Artist: The Bull - Fonda Duo
Title: Cup Of Joe, No Bull
Label: Corn Hill Indie
Katie Bull (vocals); Joe Fonda (bass).
The late tenor Jan Peerce would probably disapprove of Katie Bull’s
treatment of his 1948 semi-classical hit. On the other hand, jazz aficionados
will applaud loudly. Bull sings “Bluebird Of Happiness”
as if it had never been performed before. What a breath of fresh air!
New Yorker is releasing her third CD this month following closely behind
her successful and critic stunning Love Spook. Bassist Joe Fonda was
at the core of both previous projects Love Spook and Conversations With
The Jokers. Like the singer, Fonda is an intense and resourceful musician.
It seemed inevitable that the pair were destined to work in a duo format.
A voice/bass duo isn’t the easiest combination to manage as there
is little margin for error. The Canadian duo of Karen Young & Michele
Donato had a similar act back in the 1980s and turned out some memorable
music. The Canadians performed primarily original material but Bull
& Fonda dare to record items like “I’m Old Fashioned”
and “I Could Have Danced All Night”, songs that, for decades,
are firmly set in audiences’ minds. Even Bob Thiele’s venerable
“What A Wonderful World” gets a new look.
Katie Bull originals appear in the form of “Shortcut Blues”,
“Monkey Business” and “Speak Louder.” To my
delight, Bull’s “Love Spook” from her previous album
shows up again by the duo. It’s an astonishing performance with
Bull exhibiting her enviable vocal range and control.
Bull and Joe Fonda are delightfully different and worth a listen. It’s
as daring a performance as you’ll ever hear.
I Could Have Danced All Night; Love Spook; Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars
(Corcovado); 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.
by: Richard Bourcier
Alert: Katie Bull/Joe Fonda Cup of Joe, No Bull Bull Fonda Duo | Corn
of Joe, No Bull
Bull Fonda Duo | Corn Hill Indie
By Michael P. Gladstone
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.
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 uptempo much as a tenor
sax player might perform it to close the first set.
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.
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.
Katie Bull, vocals; Joe Fonda, bass.
Bull & Joe Fonda - Cup of Joe, No Bull 4/4
O's Notes: Katie (vocals) and Joe (bass) team up and keep it simple,
clear and focused playing a mix of standards and originals. This approach
requires courage and talent. They are not short in either area and they
sparkle as a duo. Not happy taking a simple path, they stretch out with
unique arrangements and an abundance of improvisation. It is plausible
from many aspects with very good audio quality.
JOE FONDA is a composer, bassist,
recording artist, interdisciplinary performer, and producer. An accomplished
international Jazz artist, Fonda has performed with his own ensembles
throughout the United States and Europe, and as a side man with Archie
Shepp, Ken McIntyre, Lou Donaldson, Bill and Kenny Barron, Leo Smith,
Perry Robinson, Dave Douglas, Curtis Fuller, Mark Whitecage, Marion
Brown, and Bill Dixon. Fonda was the bassist with the renowned Anthony
Braxton sextet, octet, tentet, from 1984 through 1999. Fonda also
sat on the Board of Directors from 1994 to 1999, and was the President
from 1997 to 1999 of the newly formed Tri-Centric Foundation. He has
also performed with the 38-piece Tri-Centric orchestra under the direction
of Anthony Braxton, and was the bassist for the premiere performance
of Anthony Braxton’s opera, Shalla Fears for the Poor, performed
at the John Jay theater in New York, New York, October 1996. As a
composer, Fonda has been the recipient of numerous grants and commissions
and has released eight recordings under his own name. Fonda was also
a member of The Creative Musicians Improvisors Forum directed by Leo
Smith, and was the bassist with the American Tap Dance Orchestra in
New York City, directed by world renowned tap dancer, Brenda Bufalino.
In 1989, Fonda performed with Fred Ho’s Jazz and Peking Opera
in its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From 1982
to 1986 Fonda was the bassist and dancer with the Sonomama Dance Company.
An independent producer since 1978, Fonda is the founding director
of Kaleidoscope Arts and interdisciplinary performance ensemble. Currently
Fonda has been recording and touring extensively with the Fonda-Stevens
Group. They have released five CDs and have had seven European tours
since 1997, with performances at the Bim huis in Amsterdam, Holland,
the Prague Jazz Festival, Czech Republic, the Jazz Halo Festival,
Belgium, and Jazz Festival Thurinsen, Weimer, Germany. Three of Fonda’s
most recent projects are From the Source, Conference Call and the
FAB Trio. From the Source is a group that incorporates the tap dancing
and poetry of Brenda Bufalino and the healing arts of Vicki Dodd,
and four jazz musicians. The group has released their first CD entitled,
Joe Fonda and From the Source, on Konnex Records. Conference Call
is a quartet, featuring drummers, Han Benik and Matt Wilson, with
pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, and bassist Joe Fonda. Conference Call
has released two CDs, one on Soul Note, Final Answer and one on Leo
Records, Variations on a Master Plan. The FAB Trio, featuring Joe
Fonda, Barry Altschul, and Billy Bang, has just released its first
CD, Transforming the Space, on CIMP Records. “The FAB Trio serenades
us with their maturity, their honesty and longevity found in their
many years of individual performances,” describes Kunle Mwanga,
“they continue to be fresh and in the avant-garde of the music
is a jazz vocalist and multi-media performer living in New York City
since birth. She has sung with her divine mentors—jazz vocalist/composer
Jay Clayton, & Jay Clayton’s Voices and jazz singer Sheila
Jordan; pianist and composer Kirk Nurock in his Natural Sound; composer
Julius Eastman; pianists Michael Jefry Stevens, Frank Kimbrough, and
Joshua Wolf; percussionists Lou Grassi, Matt Wilson, Harvey Sorgen,
George Schuller, and Jon Wikan; and bass players Joe Fonda, Martin
Wind, and Cameron Brown. Her premiere CD Conversations with the Jokers
(with Michael Jefry Stevens/piano; Lou Grassi/percussion; Joe Fonda/bass)
was released in March 2003. Her second CD, Love Spook (Matt Wilson,
Frank Kimbrough, Martin Wind, Michael Jefry Stevens, & Joe Fonda),
will be released in March 2005 . Her albums are independently produced
on the Corn Hill Indie Label; distributed by North Coutntry Distributors;
and can be purchased on cdbaby.com, and in selected stores. Katie
is also a writer, inter-arts performer, and founder of The Bull Family
Orchestra, integrating dance, spoken text, and music. The most recent
BFO project, The 29 Questions Project, (writers Hillary Rollins &
Bull) was published in The 2005 Plays and Playwrights Anthology by
Martin Denton, NYTE Inc. and is available at Barnes & Nobles and
on Amazon.com. For the project Katie collaborated with jazz singer/composer
Ayelete Rose Gottleib, and oud player/composer Yoel Ben Simhon.
was a Grammy Award winning audio engineer and producer of over 2,000
recordings. His credits, too numerous to mention in their entirety,
include recordings for EMC, Enja, Blue Note, Atlantic, Sony, Verve,
Black Saint/Soul Note, MaxJazz, Universal/Polygram among other record
labels. Mr. Baker’s long term working relationship with Shirley
Horne earned him a Grammy in 1998 for recording I Remember Miles for
Verve. He has also worked with a wide variety of artists including
Will Boulware, Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, Paul Bley, Al DiMeola,
Art Farmer, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Maria Schneider, George Russell,
Maceo Parker, Bruce Barth, John Scofield, John Zorn, Sun Ra and numerous
others. From 1973 to 1975 he was the Chief Engineer for Vanguard Records,
during which time he established a relationship with many Japanese
engineers and producers including Yoshihiro Suzuki (for Philips/Eastwind
label) and Yashohachi Itoh, of Sony records. His working relationship
with Itoh remained strong right up to Mr. Baker’s death. After
1975 Mr. Baker worked primarily as a free-lance engineer until 1986
when he began remastering the entire Vanguard Classics catalog for
re-release on CD. Most recently, Mr. Baker applied his years of live
recording experience to doing archival recordings for Jazz at Lincoln
Center’s 2003/04 Season, including performances by The Dave
Brubeck Octet and Toots Thielemans. Record production quality at the
source was Mr. Baker’s recording principle. His discography
spans 40 years covering all genres of music, which took him all over
the world. Mr. Baker was one of the masters of the art of recording.
He consistently demanded and always achieved an exceptional level
—Kirk Imamura, Avatar
THIS ALBUM IS DEDICATED TO
THE MASTER ENGINEER, DAVID BAKER & HIS FAMILY
David Baker (1945–2004)
How can there be a world without “Baker”?
David put Joe and I in the same room to record, not in separate boxes.
brought his divine ear into the intimacy. He put his golden fingers
on the level-dials to channel the dynamics, a consummate player, capturing
nuance. David recommended his long time collaborator Katsuhiko Naito
for Mastering, and offered to stop by the mastering session briefly
to advise me on the running-order. He stayed for seven hours.
sat and listened, and there were chances for us to talk on breaks.
Somehow, at one point, we were talking about death. I told him that
I was less scared of death since my stepmother and father had died
of cancer; their deaths—one beautiful, one brutal—had
taught me about the transformative nature of the soul, like a birth
of energy into the Invisible. He liked this and asked about the energy.
I said I had witnessed a beautiful light, and imagined the vast connection
of that light, ever present, always somewhere. He talked about the
death of his parents when he was a child and how profoundly that had
changed him. He said he could still feel their presence sometimes—their
and I are honored to have been part of one of David’s last projects.