Budd-ing star

Julie Budd is sooooo Brooklyn.

Whenever she speaks, the hills are alive with the sound of Flatbush. But when she sings, fugedaboutit. Budd is now well into her third decade of a successful music career that has taken her around the world, from Carnegie Hall to Tel Aviv’s Israel Arts Center.

She’s also a proud observant Jew who liberally sprinkles her speech with Yiddish flourishes.

Budd brings her Broadway-brand of singing to San Francisco’s Empire Plush Room for a 12-day engagement in August.

In lieu of her customary symphony orchestra backup, Budd will have only a piano accompaniment on her Bay Area dates. For a woman with such a big voice, it’s a bit of an adjustment.

“I get so used to having that large sound behind me,” she says, “When I play the Plush Room, I say, ‘Hey, where’d everybody go? They’re 105 guys missing.”

It won’t be a problem for the veteran performer, who has been praised for her dramatic interpretations of American standards. Though a card-carrying baby boomer, Budd, 49, has always been more comfortable with Rodgers and Hammerstein than with Simon and Garfunkel.

“I was into everything musically,” she recalls of her childhood, “but I knew what I sounded good on. I had good sense even at an early age.”

The New York native turned pro around age 12 after being discovered during an amateur vocal performance at a Catskill resort. While other emerging artists her age wanted to play Woodstock, Budd wanted to play Vegas, and she did.

Budd became a protégé of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Liberace, often facing comparisons to that other Brooklyn songbird, Barbra Streisand. But where Streisand developed a reputation for coldness, Budd is as haimish as they come.

“I’m a practicing Jew,” she says. “That’s who I am first and foremost. It’s not up for negotiation. I can go on and on about 6,000 years of brilliance, and what doesn’t have to be fixed with a modern self-help book.”

Born Edie Erdman, Budd recently traced her ancestry on the Ellis Island Web site. “I found my grandpa’s ship ticket,” she says. Her forebears came from all over the map, including England, Russia, Austria, Latvia, Poland and Germany.

But she’s been in a New York state of mind from Day One, and still makes her home in the city.

For her San Francisco dates, Budd will perform her usual mix of classics and contemporary originals. She might even throw in a Yiddish tune or two.

“I have a completely Jewish/Yiddish show,” she says. “Songs like ‘Yiddishe Mama,’ ‘Romania,’ ‘Sholem Alecheim.’ Yiddish is an interesting dialect. It’s derived from feeling, and these songs transcend the language barrier.”

Budd has recorded several albums, as well as done some acting over the years, but singing in front of a live audience comprises her main comfort zone. “People that do what I do are the most flexible performers in the world,” she says.

And though she’s open to them, Budd is generally a hard sell when it comes to new tunes. “Sinatra once told me that the material is paramount,” she notes. “He said to me ‘Just sing good songs, stay with good material. That’s the stuff that’s gonna last.'”

Just as important to Budd is a strong connection with her fans. And after a lifetime on stage, she’s sure she knows what they’re looking for. “Audiences desperately want to feel,” she says. “You let them down when they don’t.”

Julie Budd will perform 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 3 to 15, at the Empire Plush Room at the York Hotel, 940 Sutter St., S.F. Tickets: $30 to $35. Information: (415) 885-2800,or www.empireplushroom.com.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.