Mindi Abair - Live in Seattle (2015)

Mindi Abair
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I had friends who didn’t feel, Wild Heart, Mindi Abiar’s 2014 album that featured her teaming with the likes of Gregg Allman, Trombone Shorty, Keb Mo and Booker T. Jones on 11 rock, country rock, blues and soul tracks. Abair, who has the ultimate musician’s pedigree, took me for a loop on Wild Heart because I like it when established artists step out of their comfort zones. I absolutely loved that album start to finish with and her duet with Keb Mo on the tune “I’ll Be Your Home” was one of my favorites. I dug the juxtaposition of her image as the smooth jazz saxophone goddess, as she gave us the catchy anthem “Lucy’s” -- engaging in some hard driving blues inspired rock and Memphis soul that featured that type of fun, Illinois Jacquet, styled walk the bar saxophone playing throughout.

I had friends who didn’t feel, Wild Heart, Mindi Abiar’s 2014 album that featured her teaming with the likes of Gregg Allman, Trombone Shorty, Keb Mo and Booker T. Jones on 11 rock, country rock, blues and soul tracks. Abair, who has the ultimate musician’s pedigree, took me for a loop on Wild Heart because I like it when established artists step out of their comfort zones. I absolutely loved that album start to finish with and her duet with Keb Mo on the tune “I’ll Be Your Home” was one of my favorites. I dug the juxtaposition of her image as the smooth jazz saxophone goddess, as she gave us the catchy anthem “Lucy’s” -- engaging in some hard driving blues inspired rock and Memphis soul that featured that type of fun, Illinois Jacquet, styled walk the bar saxophone playing throughout.

Her work on Wild Heart had me regretting that I missed the opportunity to see Abair perform live when she played the Smooth Jazz at Sunset concert in St. Joseph, Mich. a few years ago. However, the release of Live in Seattle featuring Abair and the band The Boneshakers finally gave me the chance to hear her perform live.

It turns out that the success of Wild Heart piqued Abair’s curiosity as well, and she too wanted to explore the possibility of bringing that hard charging blues/rock sound to the stage. Her band’s inclusion at the Newport Beach Jazzz Festival with a lineup that also included Randy Jacobs’ band The Boneshakers – a group with a history that dates back to the early 1980s and the formation of the Detroit based band Was (Not Was) - opened the door to what eventually led to the live show in Seattle. Jacobs formed the The Boneshakers after Was (Not Was) members pursued separate interests in the 90s. However, some of the artists from the old days ended up joining The Boneshakers in the mid 2000s.

On Live in Seattle, Abair seizes the opportunity to fuse the creativity that she acquired through years as an A-list contemporary jazz sax player with the fun and raw energy of playing live with band that includes rock, soul, blues and country within its boundaries. Twelve of the 14 tunes featured on Live in Seattle are Abair originals and that includes the aforementioned “I’ll Be Your Home,” that features Randy Jacobs standing in for Keb Mo on this soulful duet about home being where your lover is.

Live in Seattle provides Abair other opportunities to prove that she is an adaptable vocalist and a good songwriter. “Gone” combines the swing of jazz with a simmering mid-tempo bass line and features Abair’s vocals in a narrative about a disenchanted lover ready to hit the door if her significant other doesn’t change his ways.

The two covers are totally reimaged versions of “Summertime” and “Cold Sweat.” The Gerswhin classic from the opera “Porgy and Bess” has been remade done by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Billy Stewart’s great soul version. Abair and The Boneshakers transform “Summertime” into a rock infused instrumental that features Jacobs moving from guitar distortion to B.B. King styled picking while Abair channels the late, great Clarence “Big Man” Clemons on her rock infused sax solos. Live in Seattle ends with Atkinson leading a hard charging rock version of “Cold Sweat.”

I’m not sure where Mindi Abair’s career will go from here, and I would not be surprised if she returned to the contemporary jazz music that originally gave her mainstream success. But her decision to step outside of her comfort zone has resulted in her growth as an artist and two consecutive albums that not only show off her versatile musicianship but are also just plain fun listening. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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