“Less is more,” as they say, and guitarist Arthur Adams learned the power of that maxim early from listening to one of its foremost practitioners: B.B. King. Like King and countless other blues and soul elder statesmen, Adams has been circling back to a more minimal style in his playing, after decades of establishing a reputation as a wild, unpredictable player onstage.
A 1940 Christmas baby, Adams grew up in western Tennessee singing in the church choir — an influence still discernible in the cadence and fervor of his vocal delivery — and for a short time toured regionally in a gospel combo with his cousins. He started playing in blues bands, but after college and a series of touring misadventures decided to go where the work was: LA. That work ethic has determined much of the shape of his career, and contributed mightily to his stylistic range.
Landing here in the mid-’60s, Adams became a busy guitarist for hire on sessions for films, television, and a broad range of artists (the Jackson 5, Quincy Jones, Hugh Masekela and Nancy Wilson, to name a few). He recorded and produced numerous singles but not until the next decade did he make any albums. The earthy, Bill Withers-style grooves of 1972’s “It’s Private Tonight” reflected the times (and perhaps the influence of co-producers Bonnie Raitt and Tommy LiPuma), while 1975’s “Home Brew” and 1977’s “Midnight Serenade” signaled the funk and soul directions Adams was taking. Several of those tracks, along with his number one UK disco hit, 1981’s “You Got the Floor,” comprise the bonus-disc half of his 2017 release “Look What the Blues Has Done for Me.”
Those older recordings provide an interesting contrast to the newer material in the album’s first half, performed by Adams with fellow blues and gospel veterans such as James Montgomery and Leo Bud Welch. Surveying almost five decades of work as a sideman and writing songs recorded by the likes of King and Nina Simone, “Look What the Blues Has Done for Me” finds Adams striving to make a statement.
In the late 1990s and early ’00s, Adams was a regular live-wire presence at King’s eponymously named nightclub in Universal City and other area venues like the Langham in Pasadena and the long-gone Cozy’s in Sherman Oaks. Appearances like Saturday’s show at the Mixx occur less often these days. Onstage, Adams constructs guitar solos from long, lean melodic phrases, accented with his signature note flurries, and still ventures into the audience while playing. As a singer he remains physically as well as musically expressive, sometimes becoming so invested in the line he’s wailing that he almost knocks over the microphone and his arms fly up in the air as if to extend it with more breadth and feeling. If he doesn’t evince King’s elegance, he does give “less is more” his own kind of twist.
Arthur Adams performs at the Mixx, 443 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, at 8-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6; general admission $20 in advance/$25 at the door. Info: (626) 500-0021. Tickets: eventbrite.com/e/arthur-adams-tickets-48579146535?aff=ebdssbdestsearch. Arthuradamsband.com, themixxpasadena.com