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The Uppity Blues Women say music is a creative collaboration

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Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women

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It would be difficult not to have fun at a concert by Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, because the veteran female trio performs with contagious joy.

"I think there are two reasons for that," said singer-guitarist Gaye Adegbalola. "No. 1, if I wasn't having a good time, I wouldn't be doing it. I don't care if there was fame and fortune, I wouldn't do it. The other thing is that Saffire's a real democracy. We all get paid the same. We all get the same share of the spotlight. And we make group decisions - if one of us doesn't want to do something, then the whole group doesn't do it."

It's an arrangement that has worked for more than two decades, since Adegbalola first teamed up with guitarist-pianist-singer Ann Rabson in 1984. Multi-instrumentalist Andra Faye joined them in 1992.

The trio, who will be in concert tonight at the Ark in Ann Arbor, doesn't use a set list but has been performing together long enough that they trust each other to pick a song that fits the mood.

Adegbalola, who turns 61 on Monday, started out on a vastly different career path than as a blues artist.

"I was hoping to become a doctor, but that required a whole lot of work and a whole lot of study and I was too much of a party girl," she said in an interview this week. "After that, I went into [biochemical] research and then became a teacher."

She was honored as Virginia's Teacher of the Year in 1982, but as a single mother, the salary wasn't enough to support her and her son, Adegbolola said.

"So I began moonlighting, and one thing led to another thing that led to another thing that led to another," she said.

After she began performing as a solo artist, but before forming Saffire, Adegbolola took guitar lessons from Rabson.

"I played [guitar], but I didn't play her style. And when I saw her, I said, 'I want some more of this!' So I begged her for lessons."

Adegbolola, who won a prestigious W.C. Handy Award for blues expertise in 1990 for her song, "Middle Aged Blues Boogie," said she enjoys writing songs and considers it to be one of her strengths.

Her Handy Award-winning song was "revolutionary" when it came out in 1990, she said.

"I wrote it for two of my friends, older women who were dating younger men, saying, 'It's OK, go for it.' It became an anthem of sorts."

Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women will be in concert at 8 tonight at the Ark, 316 South Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $20 from the box office, 734-761-1451.

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