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 six diverse and high-quality CDs, and she is enthusiastic about constantly stretching herself. "My whole body voice practice grounds me in the moment with my band...I love playing with consummate improvisors, the act of listening, the adventure of not knowing what is coming next..."
Artistic talent runs in Katie Bull’s family. Her father Richard Bull was a jazz pianist and a dance improviser, her mother Fran Bull - still alive - is a notable painter, and her stepmother Cynthia Novack was a dance anthropologist and improviser. Born in New York City, she grew up in upstate New York in Brockport, a small town. “I remember early on hearing my father playing jazz piano. We had a regular jam session in our home that ranged from bebop to totally out. I could always hear the melody in my head, even though it wasn’t being played!” She often accompanied her dad to his gigs and to events that he produced. After they moved back to Manhattan, a 15-year old Katie sang standards weekly at Walker’s in NYC with her father accompanying her on piano.
She danced, improvised, created multi-media events at a very early age, and played the alto-sax in high school. But Katie knew that singing would be her main focus, particularly after meeting jazz vocal mentors Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan. “That pretty much changed everything. They are both very loving and really took me under their wing, nurturing me. I was part of Jay’s workshops, learning about improvisation and writing improvisational structures. Sheila focused on repertoire, talking about choices and the importance of always singing things that are truthful.”
Although Katie went to college at SUNY Purchase as a music major, the jazz program was not very well developed at the time (it is now a top jazz program in the nation); so she switched to theater arts and took private singing lessons instead; her mother the painter, was also an opera singer and supported Katie's lessons. “I would take regular trips back into the city to hear jazz, and sing with Jay, doing her compositions.” Katie won the lead in the campus play, became involved in theater improvisation, and met speaking voice coach Chuck Jones. “He was the most extraordinary vocal mentor, teaching me whole-body vocal production which deals with the speaking voice. It is about using the whole body, breathing organically, and how the vibration of your body comes from a free breath. It is also about exploring the sensations of spontaneity and allowing the voice to flow naturally, without manipulation.” Katie has since become a whole-body vocal production coach, working with performers who use their speaking voice, and singers.
After she graduated from college and spent time traveling to Europe and Israel, Katie returned to New York and immediately gained work as an actor. But she quickly became disillusioned with the industry’s exploitation and sexism. After one of her plays was produced, Katie realized that it was up to her to create her own art. For many years she was the co-artistic director of the Improvisational Arts Ensembles, Inc, with Kelly Donovan and Meg Fry. She is a leader in multi-media inter-arts, writing, producing and performing her own adventurous and often avant-garde productions which include music, art and sculpture. She founded her theatrical performance troupe, The Bull Family Orchestra, which is the same name used by her great aunt and grandfather years ago for their touring musical show in Alberta, Canada.
After reconnecting with Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton, Katie Bull started making time to sing in jazz clubs and experimental theaters. She also began her recording career. “For Conversations With The Jokers, I sang songs that I had grown up with, the standards which are the family jewels of our culture. There was no mixing and fixing for we recorded it live to two track.” Ten standards and Katie’s “See Through You” are treated with respect for the lyrics but include many adventurous moments and plenty of highly original scatting. Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Lou Grassi are major assets on this stimulating debut.
Love Spook, which was recorded with two rhythm sections (both of which include drummer Matt Wilson), is split between fresh versions of standards and originals. Highlights include a touching version of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” the sensuous “Love Spook,” the witty “No Connection Rag” and the indescribable “Strange.” Cup Of Joe: No Bull is a set of spontaneous, intimate and sometimes wild duets with bassist Joe Fonda.
Katie Bull’s recording, The Story So Far was a multi-media experience. The CD packaging displayed exquisite art by Robert Lemon. A DVD included had a short movie by the choreographic film improviser Peter Richards, with the dance structure directed by Meg Fry. The CD showcased Katie Bull at her most creative, swinging in her own way while introducing a variety of memorable, diverse, thought-provoking and dramatic songs dealing with universal issues.
The Katie Bull Group Project has featured such creative and extraordinary musicians as pianists Landon Knoblock, Frank Kimbrough, bass players Joe Fonda, and Hilliard Greene, drummers George Schuller and Harvey Sorgen, & reed-man Jeff Lederer, with special projects including artists such as the pianist Connie Cruthers, bassist Shayna Dulberger, vocalist/composer Ayelete Rose Gottlieb and tenor sax-man, Ras Moshe. In 2018-2019 Pianist Mara Rosenbloom joins KBGP.
Katie's album Freak Miracle was released in June of 2011 on the Innova label and garnered a Grammy nomination consideration.
In 2015 Katie released the album All Hot Bodies Radiate (Ashokan Indie Label) was #6 on the NPR Top Ten Jazz Critics Poll for Best Jazz Vocal Album of 2015, among many critical accolades.