Mindi Abair: Gritty & Sophisticated Saxophonist
Her sounds of smooth jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and soul deliver a bone-shaking tour de force to her fans.
Mindi Abair was the featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol. She mesmerized us with her talent on the Late Show with David Letterman, and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. She has won numerous music awards for her unique artistic expression.
A Musical Heritage
Abair was born May 23, 1969, in St. Petersburg, Florida, to a musically gifted family. Her grandmother, on her father’s side, was a talented opera singer. Her father was a saxophone player with The Entertainers, a band that toured frequently with family in tow.
“My dad’s band never got really famous, but I was on the road from the time I was born until I was 5 years old. I was raised by the roadies and it gave me an appreciation for music and for traveling,” says Abair.
It wasn’t until the band’s split that they finally settled down. At five years of age, Abair started what one might call “a normal childhood.” She was already showing musical aptitude by this time as she took to the piano very naturally.
It was in the fourth grade when she became drawn to the instrument that would complete her and be her catalyst into a musician’s way of life. With her saxophone, she joined every band or music program in school. Throughout her formal education she played the sax, even while attending the Berklee College of Music where she was spring-boarded to a degree in woodwind performance. She graduated magna cum laude and then embarked on her music career.
Hitting Her Stride
After heeding the advice from an instructor to start her own band, she decided to go full throttle but paid her bills by playing in other bands along the way including Teena Marie, Adam Sandler, Jonathan Butler and Bobby Lyle.
About the time of the new millennium, Abair was finding her identity as an entertainer and musician. It was 1999 when she finally released her first album, Always and Never the Same, while touring with one of the year’s biggest musical acts, The Backstreet Boys. This cemented her confidence and she signed with the label Verve just two years later.
Things really took off with Verve, when she released It Just Happens That Way, along with other recordings that topped the charts. Everything was on track as she played her saxophone on American Idol in 2011 and 2012. This led to a partnership with Aerosmith which put her on the road with their Summer Global Warming Tour.
She continued employing her passion with many tours, events, and collaborations until she finally decided to put her original instrument on stage front and center — her favorite muse, the sax. She belted out her sultry songs with creative sophistication, enthralling audiences.
With Abair’s unique style of music, the saxophone wild child brought her beloved instrument into the forefront of listeners’ musical perception. On each of her albums and in concert, she cuts loose with sounds that kick eardrums with gritty rock beats and keep listeners moving and grooving.
During her career, Mindi has had ten #1 radio hits, six Top 5 solo records, and two #1 spots on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz album charts. She received her first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2013 for her work on the album Summer Horns, which she collaborated on with Dave Koz, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright; and was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album in 2014 for her album, Wild Heart.
“I wanted to make a record where saxophone was a main instrument like in Junior Walker’s day,” explained Abair. “In recent years, it’s just been an instrument people liked if they were Jazz fans.” Her style is powerful, and you can treat your ears to her low-down rock ‘n’ roll blues with this music video …
It’s in the originality and flawless technique that one gets swept into. As we listen, it’s easy to find oneself teeming with questions, “Is this jazz? Maybe it’s pop or country. No, it must be alternative.” It’s art. It’s beautiful, high-energy music.
Her success led her to a collaboration with The Boneshakers band founder, Randy Jacobs. It was a match made in heaven. As a matter of fact, her 2015 album, Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers LIVE in Seattle, was recorded at the very first show they played together as a band! Together, their hits garnered waves of awards and maintained a strong presence at the top of the billboard charts. The album earned significant critical acclaim, and resulted in a two-and-a-half-year non-stop tour schedule across the U.S.A.
Presently, she has an amazing catalog of collaborations and has been on tour with the top acts in the industry, such as Booker T. Jones, Jimmy Webb, Mandy Moore, The Backstreet Boys, David Pack, Max Weinberg, Bill Champlin, Aerosmith, Gregg Allman, Smokey Robinson, Duran Duran, and many more.
Today, you can find Abair touring the country with The Boneshakers, and followed Live in Seattle with The EastWest Sessions in 2017, and a brand new album, No Good Deed, released on June 28, 2019. Both of these albums were released on her own record label, Pretty Good for a Girl Records.
I would strongly encourage you to check out www.mindiabair.com where you will find a lot more information including her numerous awards and milestones, a book she authored titled How to Play Madison Square Garden – A Guide to Stage Performance, and her touring schedule. And don’t forget to check out Abair’s relatively new website, www.prettygoodforagirl.net, which is intended to empower, celebrate and support other successful women.
Abair’s music will continue transcending genres and captivating listeners for years to come. “I just want to play and create and keep moving forward,” she says. Click here for our exclusive Q&A with Mindi.