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Cup of Joe, No Bull by Bull Fonda Duo

From the moment Katie Bull starts singing, you are aware that she is a musician of prodigious talent. Her range is staggering, her vibrato fast and sure and her pitch accurate, yet expressive. Her duo recording with bassist Bull Fonda entitled Cup of Joe, No Bull demonstrates, particularly in light of performing without a chordal instrument, just how gifted a vocalist she is.

Bull uses unusual scat syllables that highlight her sense of humor and imagination (listen to the last few moments of "I’m Old Fashioned.") It’s not clear how she manages to take the children’s song "Five Little Monkeys" ("Monkey Business") and turn it into the equivalent of a vocal tabla solo or the call of the muezzin, but it happens. It’s somehow creepy, funny, fascinating and beautiful.

Chris Conner appears in "The Blue Bird of Happiness." Betty Carter’s around and, of course, Bull’s mentor Sheila Jordon is everywhere without being imitated.

Although the original compositions such as "Love Spook," Shortcut Blues," "When You Say You Will" and "Speak Louder" are worthy vehicles for Bull’s vocal elasticity, as original works, they are not the strongest parts of the recording. It’s just her singing. It’s clear that she and Fonda have a deep connection that’s present in every tune, regardless of the author. Their synergy is evident in the level of comfort that nearly hides how difficult duo performances are.

Other standards such as "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," "Bluebird of Happiness," "When I Fall in Love," "Midnight Sun," "Since I Fell for You" and "Wonderful World" are fresh and lovely in her hands. Here’s an artist to pay attention to, learn from and deeply admire.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bull Fonda Duo
  • CD Title: Cup of Joe, No Bull
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Corn Hill Indie
  • Musicians: Katie Bull (vocals), Joe Fonda (bass)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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