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Young voice, old soul

Maude Maggart is in sync with the masters of the American Songbook, and more modern fare.

January 05, 2007|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

The art of interpreting songs is "like studying philosophy," Maude Maggart said in a ruminative moment of her Wednesday performance at the Gardenia.

Words and music can be coded with complex and seemingly contradictory emotions, the 31-year-old singer explained as she sampled her way through 1920s novelty songs, selections from the Great American Songbook and a knockout number by Joan Baez, pondering how the tunes seemed to cast the singer as either a good girl or a bad girl yet frequently -- quite humanly -- blurred the line between the two.

Her philosophical inquiry involved giving herself over completely to each song, sampling its emotions and teasing out its meanings. Her high yet dusky voice, with its fast vibrato, chirped, sighed, swelled and crackled. Her eyes sparkled with mischievousness one moment, with tears minutes later.

Maggart is the real deal, as audiences from San Francisco's Empire Plush Room to New York's Oak Room have been discovering. She's an old soul, with a fluttery, yesteryear sort of voice, yet she's thoroughly contemporary in her strength and daring. In Los Angeles, this protegee of Andrea Marcovicci makes her performing home at the Gardenia, where she tried out this material in October.

Toward the middle of Wednesday's 14-song set, Maggart began -- with Baez's "Love Song to a Stranger" -- a sustained crescendo of emotion. In what seemed one long, luxurious exhalation, she released the descending phrases of this bittersweet, folky melody, revealing the quiet rapture, the sadness and, ultimately, the straightforward gratefulness of an encounter shared by "passionate strangers who rescue each other from a lifetime of cares."

She then paired Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "He Was Too Good to Me" with the flip-flopped perspective of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's "What's the Use of Wond'rin'."

Her voice rode the gentle rise and fall of the former song's melody, sighing through the memory of "When I was mean to him / He'd never say go away now / I was a queen to him / Who's gonna make me gay now?" In the latter, from the musical "Carousel," her voice went sandpapery with feeling as she wholeheartedly if somewhat mournfully accepted a lover's less than perfect behavior with the words "He's your feller and you love him / That's all there is to that."

She performs through Saturday, accompanied by pianist Lanny Meyers and cellist-guitarist Yair Evnine (the latter not present Wednesday).


Maude Maggart

Where: The Gardenia, 7066 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

When: 9 p.m. today and Saturday

Price: $20, plus $10 food or drink minimum

Contact: (323) 467-7444

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