Katie Bull - Love Spook Free 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 divided equally between uniquely personal originals and timeless standards she grew up loving and describes as 'chambers of my own heart'. The 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. One 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. With both, Bull bares her soul, singing with a sound that is simultaneously sensual and spiritual. Love 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. Bull offers listeners some pleasant insights into her personality with the words to her vamp intro to My Favorite Things, singing about a 'cherry tomato (that) explodes in my mouth' and '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 song. Strange, 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 an impressionistic picture of an experience using very few words. Bull 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 and bassist Joe Fonda, the singer's regular bandmates, provide sensitive minimalist accompaniment, allowing her voice to shine in the sympathetic setting. Deer 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. Leftover 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. Bull maintains her playful tongue in cheek attitude on I Only Have 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 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. The 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. Connection 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 dissonant interpretation of the classic form. Bull 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 most as 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 trio, with Stevens remarkably like Bill Evans. The concluding Ashokan Road was written by Bull with the words 'something dies, something else is born' 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. Katie Bull is a singer who is capable of creating the kind of music that has real meaning in the 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 Spooks is full of music that is full of fun and relevance. It's 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.
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