Cover Story

Mindi Abair
By Preston Turegano
 
Most likely, by the time you read this, smooth jazz saxophonist and vocalist Mindi Abair will have made music performance history.

On May 1 in Las Vegas Abair becomes “the first jazz artist to perform interactively worldwide” on DeepRockDrive.com, according to her publicists. This means fans of Abair all around the world could log on to the website, hear a live concert (beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific time), submit song requests and give feedback––also live––to Abair.

“I love being part of new technology,” Abair said during a telephone interview a few weeks before the event.

“I love using the Internet to make more of a community. That’s what making music is all about. I got into jazz––got into music––to play for people. I think whatever is at your fingertips should be used to get your music out. Right now, the Internet is just bustling with new music; everyone’s just going nuts over it and it’s easier to find than ever.”

Naturally, Abair’s Las Vegas/Internet event gave her a chance to perform something from her latest album, Stars, which is being released on Peak/Concord Records this month. Produced by Abair’s boutique label 23 Music Group, the CD contains 11 new songs, six of which are instrumental. Stars’ chances of success may be in Abair’s own stars (she’s a Gemini). One astrological Web site says 2008 will be a good year for Geminis: “Much of your energy this year will be focused on figuring out ways to improve your financial situation. Money will definitely be coming your way and will greatly influence your personal beliefs, dreams and philosophies.”

An ebullient Abair emerged on the pop world scene in the mid-’90s when she toured as a singer and sax player with comedian Adam Sandler. She also went on the road with the Backstreet Boys on their 1999-2000 Millennium Tour, and was hand-picked by Josh Groban as his opening act on his sold-out fall tour in 2004. Abair also performed with Duran Duran for their U.S. comeback. On TV, she appeared on “The Drew Carey Show,” HGTV’s “Ground Rules!” and the Food Network’s “Emeril Live.”

These days, it’s clear Abair is a rarity in the smooth jazz world. She is among just a few women saxophonists in an instrumental field dominated by men.

“I get asked a lot how it is to be a woman in a man’s world,” Abair said. “My answer is the same all the time: It’s great. When I was first getting into music seriously, no one told me it was odd for a girl to play a jazz instrument––especially saxophone––until much later. Now, I have girls who play trumpet or sax or something unusual coming to my shows all the time and telling me I’m someone they can look at as a role model. That’s most humbling.”

Abair’s road to fame was no beeline. She took her musicianship seriously, focusing on perfecting her craft rather than shooting for stardom. With a French-Canadian surname, she grew up in the 1970s in St. Petersburg, Florida, surrounded by music. Her father played keyboards and saxophone, and her grandmother was an opera singer. When Abair was 8, she picked up a sax for the first time as a member of a school band.

“I heard my dad and other musicians play rock and pop and thought it was cool,” Abair said, “so I wanted to have a good time, too.”

During her last two years in high school, Abair became the marching band’s drum major even though her music inclinations were toward rock and pop. At the time, she loved such groups as the Police and the Eagles, and such singers as Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder. (On Stars, Abair’s vocals are definitely pop sounding.) Abair said she never had any real music lessons or formal training until she went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston on a scholarship. About the same time, her father clued her in to jazz, particularly the late saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and trumpet great Miles Davis.

“That was a turning point for me,” she said. “That’s when I got turned on to jazz.”

In 1996, Abair moved to Hollywood, California, and is still there. She cut her first album in 2003; and her second CD came a year later. Her third, Life Less Ordinary, at the top of Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart debuted in 2006.

**The complete story can be found in the May edition of Smooth Jazz NewsSubscribe today.  Receive 11 editions of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (February through December), for $35.

For more information on Abair,visit www.mindiabair.com.

      
On Tour

May 16
The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival
1107 Jamboree Road
Newport Beach, California
www.summerjazzseries.com
www.jazzconcerts.com
(949) 729-6400

May 24
33rd Annual Smooth Jazz 98.1 Gaslamp Festival
San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter
Sixth & G Streets
San Diego, California
www.kifm.com

July 12
Thornton Winery’s 20th Annual Champagne Jazz Series
32575 Rancho California Road
Temecula, California
www.jazzconcerts.com
(951) 699-3021

July 26
Hyatt Westlake Plaza Outdoor Smooth Jazz Concert Series
880 S. Westlake Blvd.
Westlake Village, California
www.WestlakeJazzSeries.com
www.jazzconcerts.com

Aug. 9
21st Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival
Rainbow Lagoon Park
1 Pine Ave.
Long Beach, California
www.longbeachjazzfestival.com