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
“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
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
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For more information on Abair,visit www.mindiabair.com.
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33rd Annual Smooth Jazz 98.1 Gaslamp Festival
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San Diego, California
Thornton Winery’s 20th Annual Champagne Jazz Series
32575 Rancho California Road
Hyatt Westlake Plaza Outdoor Smooth Jazz Concert Series
880 S. Westlake Blvd.
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1 Pine Ave.
Long Beach, California