The concert will be performed at the Refinery in the round, just like Elvis’ comeback special in ’68. The cocktail party even has peanut butter, banana and bacon cheesecake on the menu, which sounds decadent enough to clog the arteries of the King himself.
The setting obviously lends itself to Elvis comeback allusions. But in his own way, Adair is approaching the concert from a different perspective.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a comeback. I look at it like more as a starting point,” said Adair, a lifelong musician who holds down a day job teaching at Aden Bowman high school in Saskatoon. “This is the first full project that I’ve envisioned and taken on on my own, with the help of some good friends.”
Friday’s concert is a celebration of the release of Aanalog (get it?), Adair’s first foray into the world of full scale solo recording. The album was on track to be released in March but was delayed until yesterday by some glitches with digital distribution.
Now that it’s out in the wild it’s safe to say that Aanalog is a hip record. It’s good. By Saskatoon standards it almost has no right to sound as cool as it does**. Adair aims for a jazzy, soulful sound and hits his target, thanks in large part to his energetic vocal style and rock solid instrumentals. The album is as tight as a drum. There’s no doubting that Adair has channeled a lot of love and soul into this project.
Aanalog has been a long time coming. Adair hasn’t had too many chances to play or record in last few years because teaching takes up huge chunks of his time and energy.
“You can’t avoid that,” said Adair, “it’s pretty demanding, pretty busy.”
Fortunately for soul fans, after investing so much time in his teaching career, working on his album gave Adair the chance to rediscover himself as a songwriter. As an added bonus, this process has fed back into his teaching career in a positive way.
“Music almost provides a perfect complement to [teaching], because playing and writing songs is just such a good release and reprise from thinking about the stress of work.”
There are times, he admits, when it could be easy to let himself be completely absorbed in playing music or writing songs. But the pressure of balancing his teaching career with his passion for music has its upsides, adding a little extra fuel to his creative engine when he does find time to write songs.
“I get pushed creatively [and have] to really focus my time when it can be so limited, you know?”
Adair played his first real gig when he was in grade eight, at a bar, playing in a cover band with his brother. He was younger than any of the kids he currently teaches. Since then music has played a defining role in his life. Getting back into songwriting felt natural, and he knew exactly where to turn to get inspired.
“I was thinking about those artists who have always moved me,” said Adair. “The one style that really influenced this record was the early 70s Memphis soul sound, like Al Green and Ann Peebles…. I also listened to Stevie Wonder B-sides and Curtis Mayfield. Even some more modern stuff — like some hip-hop and artists like D’Angelo and Prince — all had a pretty big influence.”
In the same way a range of artists and genres informs his songwriting style, Adair tries to stay familiar with a number of different of instruments. He believes it’s a healthy habit for a songwriter: from a production standpoint it helps to know the little nuances of other instruments and sounds. Adair plays his trusty smooth Wurlitzer electric piano on the album. If you don’t recognize the Wurlitzer name, you’ll definitely recognize the sound.
Even though some of his songs are composed sitting at the piano, the music and style is transferable between different instruments. Adair could perform Aanalog with a seven-piece band or sing the songs around a campfire.
He’s going with the seven-piece band option for Friday’s concert — a good call, really.
He’ll be joined on stage by local musicians Meagan Bzowy, Dave Anderson, Brett Balon, Hal Schrenk, Sam Mitchell and Sarah Anderson. The band features a flute and trombone horn section.
Kind of weird, “but, believe it or not, it works,” said Adair.
Aaron Adair will be performing again live during the Jazz Festival on June 22 and June 30.×
**Edit: 04/11/13 10:53 p.m.: This isn’t a shot at the Saskatoon music scene. I think we’re very lucky to have all the great music we have here. I wouldn’t be writing about it if I didn’t! To clarify, I feel like Adair’s album really does sound like something from a seasoned recording artist out of Memphis in the 70s who time-traveled to 2013 and put a modern spin on it. It’s really cool! As far as I know, at least in my own relatively small frame of reference (and I’d love to be corrected on this), there’s no one else in town who sounds like this and is currently making records.
Photo: Karyn Kimberley