Oleta Adams thinks we are living in a time when people need and want spiritual uplifting. That's one of the reasons the soulful singer is working on an album of prayers called "A Place of Peace," scheduled for release in 2011.
She'll perform some of the tunes when she performs Saturday at Wichita Center for the Arts as part of its 90th anniversary gala.
"When you consider what we've been through the last decade — Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and the tsunami — people are returning to prayer," Adams said. "People are returning to church. It's a good time to make this album. It's perfect for the times, and it's good for me since my faith is so strong."
Adams has always had faith in her career as a singer-songwriter. But she got a big boost in her career in the 1980s when two members of the band Tears for Fears caught her act in a club at a Kansas City hotel.
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were so impressed they asked her to add vocals to the track "Woman in Chains," on their 1989 release "Seeds of Love."
"Famous people came in all the time," Adams said. "Billy Joel, Air Supply and the guys from Yes came in after shows to relax. I never bothered any of them. But it was amazing when Roland wanted to work with me. It was great working with Roland and such incredible musicians as (bassist) Pino Palladino and (drummer) Manu Katsche. It was a whole new world to me."
That world became larger when Orzabal produced Adams' 1990 solo debut, "Circle of One," which includes her mesmerizing version of Brenda Russell's hit "Get Here," which went Top 10 and helped the album go gold.
"I used to sing 'Get Here' (in clubs)," Adams said. "I always loved the song. I just had to do it my way."
Adams has always done things her way. She has recorded albums comprised of pop ballads (1993's "Evolution"), catchy R&B (1995's "Movin' On") and soulful adult contemporary (2001's "All the Love").
"I just follow my gut when I do things," she said. "What I do isn't always in style. I just have to do what moves me. I don't believe in following trends. I follow my heart."
Not everyone is singing sweet, gentle songs like Adams' new material, which includes the touching "Safe and Sound," about parents caring for their children, and "The Long and Lonely Hour," inspired by those caring for the ill.
"Most people aren't making this kind of music right now but I think the time is right for it," Adams said. "I think we can use some songs with some meaning. I think that's what the world needs now."
If you go
What: The jazz and soul singer will perform as part of the 90th anniversary gala at Wichita Center for the Arts
Where: 9112 E. Central
When: 9 p.m. Saturday (see note, below)
How much: You must be a member to attend the gala. Memberships are $35 for a single and $60 for family. Call 316-634-2787.
Note: Three women who have been significant supporters of Wichita Center for the Arts — Olive Ann Beech, Mary R. Koch and Gladys Wiedemann — will be honored during Saturday's gala. Cocktails begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner at 8.