Vocal music performed by experimentalists such as the magical Katie Bull can be physical as well as blithe spirited. This recording, aptly titled for its visceral physicality – All Hot Bodies Radiate – will go down as one of Bull’s finest endeavour, a work emboldened by the altitude of her swirling vocalastics that find a golden timbre and a fleet elegance, matched only by the effervescent force of her accompanying ensemble. This is as close as you’ll get to musical champagne; I’ve a feeling that not only bacchanalian vintners would approve, but so would the Muses who have infused the poetry and music of Bull’s majestic work.
Katie Bull’s music falls somewhere between Joycean stream-of-consciousness and the brutality-of-relationships kind espoused by Joni Mitchell. Add to that the dramatically changing metre and the brazen harmonic inventions and you have a poet and musician that defy not only category, but also all norms of performance, whether in the studio or the auditorium. There is also a natural ebullience to Bulls work that conjures magic in The Crazy Poet Song and in the balletic reading of her own Love Poem for Apollo. These and other parts of the repertoire are infused with both subtle delight as well as raw feistiness that catches fire so quickly that you have to be prepared for it at all times. There is also an unstoppable swing to the music and this also has to do with the presence of Landon Knoblock, George Schuller, Jeff Lederer and Joe Fonda.
Mind you, although this music is instantly attractive, it is also fiendishly difficult, with much of its virtuosity (displayed by all instrumentalists) is reserved for the vocalist’s long stretches of experimentalism in an almost rarefied realm. Certainly this is not something that you could credit with most singers of Bull’s generation. The vocalist might herself confess that this music is ‘too difficult’ to come to terms with if you are a populist listener. Yet Katie Bull has the measure of it, delivering the dizzying swings with airborne grace and tight precision. The virtuosic figures seem never to lose direction either.
Katie Bull revels in the spacious improvisations, short fast darting vocals combining limpid vocalise with insouciant runs. Her passion for quick pulses is refreshing and met with remarkable empathy from her ensemble. There is also an unselfconscious simplicity in Bull’s vocal gymnastics. Throughout the repertoire, Katie Bull is matched by superb and rhapsodic ‘conversations’ between herself and the accompanying musicians. Joe Fonda’s, Jeff Lederer’s, Landon Knoblock and George Schuller’s imaginative performances remain compelling. Together with the magic of Katie Bull’s poetry and music their contributions become unforgettable. Katie Bulls’ disc comes highly recommended.
Track List: The Crazy Poet Song; Venus on the A Train; KoKo’s Can-Do Blues; Ghost Sonata; The Drive to Woodstock; I Loved You / What If?; Torch Song to the Sun; Love Poem for Apollo; I Guess This Isn’t Kansas any More; Some Perfume Home; Ding Dong the Witch is Dead; Rapture for the David; The Sea is Full of Song.
Personnel: Katie Bull: vocals and compositions; Jeff Lederer: tenor and soprano saxophones; Landon Knoblock: piano, electronics and back-up vocals (4); Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums.
About Katie Bull
One of the most stimulating, adventurous and consistently surprising jazz singers on the scene today, Katie Bull is never predictable, even when melodically exploring a vintage ballad. Her work with multi-media productions has been innovative, she has recorded four diverse and high-quality CDs, and she is enthusiastic about constantly stretching herself. “I try to get out and hear as many people as I can,” says Katie, “rather than only going to my own gigs and that of close friends. I want to listen to everything. There are many sounds that I haven’t heard yet that I want to experience and include in my music.” Read more…