Easy Listener: Why You Should Know Singer Joyce Breach

Unless you've been hanging around the smaller, smart cabaret rooms in Manhattan for the last decade and a half and/or were habituating the tiny, bright Pittsburgh boite spots for some time before that, there's a world-class pop singer you may not know about but absolutely should. She's Joyce Breach--I repeat for emphasis, Joyce Breach--who's been hiding her mellow light under lucky urban bushes.

It is possible, of course, you do know her from some of her previous recordings -- three of which she dedicated to one of her major influences, the late and indisputably great Mabel Mercer. But if you don't have those dapper items, here's the newest chance to become acquainted with her. It's the new CD, Odds & Ends (Audiophile--ACD-328), and it's as good, as tangy, as necessary as anything she's done. To begin with, it's a testament to her consistency. Breach never fools with a lyric or a melody. She sings precisely what was meant -- what was carefully designed and desired -- by the composers and lyricists responsible for the material she cherry-picks.

Which is to say she belies her surname by never breaching trust with tunesmiths. The marvelous Breach keeps faith in a voice that's honeyed at the same time as it's smoked. Hey, wait, the "honeyed"-"smoked" combo conjures the idea of ham, but pert-faced Breach is in no way hammy. She's anything but when singing and arranging the colorful shawl she drapes over her arms, as did influence Mercer. She stands out for not choosing to stand in the way of the messages being conveyed. Her tones are easy on the ear, just what's wanted when the listener is in a relaxed mood -- or longs to be. Rather than allow emotion to overtake her, she lets a song's emotion float on the sounds she makes.

Another facet of Breach's excellence is her attraction to lesser-known songs that -- like herself -- deserve to be celebrated more widely. Even when she culls from Major American Songwriters catalogs, she goes for something more or less obscure. The Burton Lane-Ted Koehler song she selects is called "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (You read that right: It's not the Michel Legrand-Alan Bergman-Marilyn Bergman song of the same title; titles are not eligible for copyright.) When she looks into Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it's for the album's title tune, which frequent Bacharach-David interpreter Dionne Warwick has recorded, almost needless to say, but very few others have.

With Johnny Mercer and Arthur Schwartz, it's the CD opener "I Got Out of Bed on the Right Side." When she turns to lyricist Carl Sigman, she doesn't opt for the chart-topping Love Storyballad but singles out his unfamiliar "If You Could See Me Now," written with composer Todd Dameron. From highly-rated ASCAP money-makers Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, her Joyce-choice is the poignant "There's a Rising Moon (For Every Falling Star)." From Bob Merrill and his Take Me Along score comes the irresistible 'Promise Me a Rose." From Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, she picks "I'm Glad to See You Got What You Want."

A partisan of too often under-rated composer Michael Leonard, Breach does four of his endearing, if not yet enduring, ditties, "Not Exactly Paris" (lyrics by Russell George), "Don't Let a Good Thing Get Away" (lyrics by the great Carolyn Leigh), "The Time Has Come" (lyrics by equally great but less recognized lyricist Marshall Barer) and "I'm All Smiles" (indelible lyrics by Herbert Martin). She also includes the memorable "Will You?" by Michael Korie and Scott Frankel from the musical Grey Gardens.

Yet another selling-point for Breach is her band, fronted by Jon Weber (a recent Manhattan émigré from Chicago), Gene Bertoncini on guitar, Chip Jackson on bass and Warren Vaché on trumpet. What the latter superb musician does on "I'm All Smiles" is especially riveting but, like the rest of the work here, sweetly muted.

Wanna know just how off-the-beaten-track Breach is? You can only find her on Youtube in one catchall video! So here's an opportunity to be part of rectifying that silly situation. Listen and become a satisfied convert.