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Julie Budd Again in Bloom

JULIE BUDD, songstress of the standards, returns to the Algonquin's Oak Room with a new act and a new CD. Brian Scott Lipton reports. logo

If You Could See Me Now is more than just the title of cabaret singer Julie Budd's new CD and upcoming show at the Algonquin Hotel's storied Oak Room--the CD is, in its own way, a statement to her longtime fans about the new directions she's taking in her career.

For more than three decades, Budd, 46, has thrilled audiences by using her extraordinary belt and soaring soprano on her signature renditions of America's popular standards. In the early days of her career as a teen sensation, she was a favorite guest of such legendary talk show hosts as Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, and Mike Douglas, and she later headlined in the country's top nightclubs alongside George Burns and Frank Sinatra.

In recent years, Budd has augmented her busy schedule of club and concert appearances with a series of more intimate cabaret shows, many of which have revolved around specific themes, ranging from the lyrics of Dorothy Fields to the songs of the 1930s and 1940s. But for this go-round at the Algonquin--she will appear from June 20 to July 8--Budd is veering into new territory. There are no themes, no through-lines, fewer standards.

Moreover, she is approaching her selections from the Great American Songbook from a jazz/swing viewpoint, with light-as-air renditions of "Let's Face The Music and Dance," "No Moon At All," and "I'm Beginning to See The Light." "These are songs I've always wanted to sing," says Budd. "But I knew that if I was going to sing them, I'd want to find my own way of doing them."

Perhaps more surprisingly to some, Budd is devoting a large chunk of her repertoire to contemporary pop material, including "Weekend in New England" (first recorded by Barry Manilow), "Gone Too Soon" (first recorded by Michael Jackson), and "If You Could See Me Now" (first recorded by Celine Dion). She admits she wasn't familiar with all of these songs, some of which were suggested by colleagues and friends. But once she heard these modern gems, she knew they were the right ones for her. "I think these songs, as a whole, are a perfect reflection of where I've been and where I am going," says Budd. "I didn't want to stray too far from the past and alienate my old fans, but I want to show them my interest in newer material."

She is understandably excited that, for this CD--her second for the After 9 label--she had the opportunity to work with such amazing musicians as Frank Owens, Ted Rosenthal, and the one-and-only Dr. Billy Taylor. (Budd's longtime collaborator, Herb Bernstein, will play for her at the Oak Room.)

"Those kind of amazing collaborators will bring me a new group of listeners, and it is already making the CD more amenable to light jazz radio stations," Budd says.

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