Maude Maggart at the Algonquin Hotel on Saturday, April 19.
Maude Maggart is a talented, highly proficient vocalist, but it’s her ability to convey sincerity, to feign sincerity, that makes her mesmerizing. To truly convey someone else’s song—or perhaps even one’s own—a singer must be able to act, to play the part, and Maggart is a bewitching interpreter, artfully changing her expression, her bearing, the very timbre of her voice to match the mood of each song she sings.
The effect is all the more charming for being acknowledged as a contrivance. After a fervently passionate rendition of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” for example, Maggart suddenly shifted her weight, adopted a cheeky grin, and disavowed the lyrics’ someday-my-prince-will-come mentality. That kind of reflection turns up over and over in her between-song patter, which might sound pedantic, but in fact, that thoughtfulness, the sense that she really thinks about the songs and how they relate to each other, invites her listeners to hear them afresh. She makes obscure songs sound familiar and old standards sound new and all of them sound breathtakingly beautiful.