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Muldaur Unchanged At Vine St.

January 24, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

When you hear the tone, it will be 13 years past "Midnight at the Oasis." The time that has passed since Maria Muldaur's big hit has not wrought any significant changes in her, as she revealed Wednesday at the Vine St. Bar & Grill.

Muldaur came to the attention of the jazz world as something of a maverick: A pop, rock and jug band-skiffle singer who, with the right background, could bring authenticity to the works of Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael and Don Redman.

Of course, "right background" had to be the key words. Given the presence on her mid-1970s albums of such giants as Roger Kellaway, John Collins, Ray Brown and Paul Humphrey, it was disconcerting to hear her at Vine St. (or sometimes almost fail to hear) backed by a quartet that laid down a loud, tight, insensitive beat.

Despite this problem, drawing on such diverse sources as Fats Waller, Sippie Wallace and Dr. John, Muldaur displayed the same light-textured timbre and jazz-inspired phrasing heard on those long-ago records.

The musicians settled down, with the drummer Brent Rampone switching to brushes, for "Lover Man." On a more contemporary note, her coming single, "Let's Hold Onto Each Other," was an attractively harmonized vocal duet with her bassist, Mike Eje.

Muldaur's personalized growl and quasi-yodel effects worked well in "Adam and Eve Got the Blues." On most numbers the guitar of Archie Williams, in a B. B. King groove, and Rick Shafer's colorless keyboard work had solo space.

"Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love," from a 1930 Fanny Brice film, was played strictly for camp, to minimal effect. Dave Frishberg's "Wheelers and Dealers," which calls for close attention to the witty lyrics, was lost in the rhythmic shuffle. The same fate befell "I'm a Woman."

As for the big finale, how else could she end but with "Midnight at the Oasis"? It's a pleasant enough song, though its huge success seems a little surprising in retrospect. Muldaur closes Saturday.

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