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From Innova: Katie Bull “Freak Miracle”

Innova is the home for New Music in America

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Katie Bull Freak Miracle
Innova 802 (June 2011)

“With little regard for the bright lines that have long separated experimentation from tradition—and even vocal from instrumental—in jazz, vocalist/composer/band leader Katie Bull harnesses the accidental, the inspired, the carefully composed and the spontaneous into a challenging, seductive whole on her Innova Recordings debut, Freak Miracle. Her flexible, powerful, soulful ensemble is granted remarkable freedom by Bull and the resulting record is a wild ride that takes what you know about jazz vocals through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole.

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‘ My group project musicians play in and out with equal strength,’ says Bull. ‘ And bold passion—I might add—which is why I chose them. The chart is just a blueprint to be transformed. We take the ride.’ At the front of that freewheeling caravan is Bull herself, straddling swing, bop, bossa, and completely abstract forms, drawing on everything from the poetry of human conversation to fragments of melodies and snatches of lyrics from dreams. Bull’s “envelope pushing experimentation on a grand scale” (Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes) has earned her critical respect over the course of five independent releases. Freak Miracle is her most ambitious record yet, spanning a wild yet cohesive musical landscape of eleven new original works and three vital re-imaginings of jazz standards (I Thought About You, How Insensitive, and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off).

This ability to stay grounded in tradition while leaping boldly into the future was instilled in Bull by her mentors—her “jazz mothers”—Sheila Jordan (for whom she wrote “Back to Square One”) and Jay Clayton (to whom she dedicates I Thought About You). Hailing from New York’s Greenwich Village, Bull grew up in a house of jazz with her pianist father (a student of Lennie Tristano) taking her to gigs and jam sessions across the city. Family friends like Borah Bergman, Elliott Sharp, Jane Ira Bloom, Lou Grassi and Meredith Monk circulated through her world, steeping in her not only in the world of jazz but of experimentation and exploration.

It is with that spirit that she formed her Group Project, an ensemble capable of a seamless blending of improvisation and structure, a total confluence of impulse and collaboration where the lion of edgy dissonance lies down with the lamb of comforting forms and structures. Bull herself is not afraid of being straightforward when it’s called for, nor is she timid when it comes to cracking it open and going crazy. Freak Miracle is much more than a simple collection of songs—it’s a manifesto, a declaration that the destination means nothing without the glorious winding ride it takes to get there.”

Innova is the recording arm of American Composers Forum, St Paul Mn.
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