Mindi's Wild Heart

Bruce Von Stiers

There have been far too few female powerhouse musicians. Until recent years, that is. You now find kick ass women drummers, guitarists and saxophonists up front and center. One such saxophonist is Mindi Abair.

Mindi came on my radar about ten years ago when I was sent her album Come As You Are to review. A few years later I also had a chance to review Mindi's album Stars.

I'd kind of lost track of what she had been up to, although I knew that Mindi had been hosting her own radio program. Mindi was the featured sax player for the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol and was on the 2012 Aerosmith tour. In 2013 Mindi received a Grammy nomination for her performance on the album Summer Horns, an album that Dave Koz put together with Mindi, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright, all top tier sax players. I also reviewed Albright's album, New Beginnings, a few years ago.

Mindi is not strictly a jazz musician. Her music shakes and grooves in several different styles. Some of it is old school jazz, some smooth jazz, some of it pop and a bit of rock. Mixed in is some soul, R & B and funk.

Last May saw the release of Mindi's latest album. The title for the album is Wild Heart and it was released by the Concord Music Group. The album has eleven songs and a run time of forty-nine minutes.

On the album Mindi plays the alto, tenor and bari saxophones. She also provides vocals on several of the songs.

An album like this rarely gets done without some other musicians helping out. And Mindi has a bunch of great musicians helping out on Wild Heart.

Adam Berg played the piano and synth along with the tambourine and organ. Adam has the Manifest Music Production studio in Santa Monica and is a member of the band The Decoders.

Itai Shapira is a producer and instrumentalist who with Adam Berg and Todd Simon have the band The Decoders. Itai plays the bass and guitar here.

Besides being part of Big Daddy Jake and The Styltones, Jake Najor took time out of his schedule to play some drums on this album.

Jim Peterik has written songs for many top bands, including the song Vehicle for Ides of March. He was also the founder of the band Survivor, whose album Eye of the Tiger was one of my favorites from that era. Jim is only on one song for this album and does the percussion for it.

Besides recording with Ziggy Marley and Everlast, Todd Simon has had his music on a lot of television shows and quite a few films. Todd plays the trumpet and flugelhorn on this album. And as I mentioned earlier, he's in the band The Decoders with Itai Shapira and Adam Berg.

On trombone is Elizabeth Lea. Besides this album for Mindi, Elizabeth has played on albums by Hugh Laurie, Eric Clapton, John Legend and even the Black Eyed Peas.

Bud Harner is one of the heads of Chapman & Co., Mindi's managers. Bud was a sought after drummer before moving to the business side of things, doing A & R and promotions for Verve and other companies. Bud does the cymbals on one of the songs on the album.

Dave Yaden has composed for and played piano on numerous albums over the years for people like Josh Kelly and Tyler Hilton. He plays piano on a song for the album.

Blake Colie has seen his music played on shows like The Wire and in films such as Ruby Sparks and was on the recent US tour of Hollie Cook. Blake plays the drums on one song on this album.

James Gadson plays the drums on a couple of songs. James has a long list of artists he's played for including Paul McCartney, Herbie Hancock and B.B. King.

Mindi's dad, Lance Abair, plays the organ on one song. Lance has been around the music business even before Mindi was born. She actually got her start in his band The Entertainers.

Besides helping put together the band Jolene, Dave Burris also played on a couple of albums by Jimmy Baldwin. Here he is on electric guitar for a song.

Kevin Scott has worked with Greg Allman and a lot of other artists. He plays the bass on one song.

Mindi produced the album along with Adam, Todd and Itai. . She also co-wrote all of the songs.

Aside from the talented musicians who played on the album, Mindi also included a few special guests. Trombone Shorty helped out, along with Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Keb' Mo', Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel, Booker T. Jones and Greg Allman.

The first song for the album is Amazing Game. It has elements of early 60's rock / sock hop in it. Head bopping and toe tapping is the status quo for the song. This is the song that Jim Peterik does the percussion on. He also co-wrote the song with Mindi. There are some killer sax bits in the song. But coming to the table in this one is the fantastic trombone sound of Trombone Shorty.

Moving things over into a slick rock mode is I Can't Lose. The song has some tough guitar along with Mindi's great vocals. I already knew that Mindi could sing well from reviewing her earlier albums where she did vocals along with cranking it up with killer sax.

In third position on the album is the title track, Wild Heart. It has really cool sax with great piano and some slick guitar, trumpet and trombone work. It is a mild groove. The song has several parts where Mindi holds notes long. For me, that makes it extra cool.

Next up is the fast paced Haute Sauce. Like the title might indicate, this is a killer groove piece.

Mindi once again brings her vocals back in the song Train. It is a head bopping, rock influenced song. Mindi sings about a train that will take her away from all the misery and trouble that life's been giving her.

One song that has a definite rock tone to it is Kick Ass. This one features Joe Perry. It starts out with killer drum and guitar. Then Mindi glides in with the sax on top of the other music and blends it to make this a too tough rock / jazz song.

Slowing things way back down is I'll Be Your Home. A kind of R & B flavored tune, Mindi shares vocals with Keb' Mo'. He also plays guitar on the song and does a guitar solo in it as well.

Harking back to the early rock n roll era Mindi cranks it out with The Shakedown. She gets some fantastic help on the song on guitar by Waddy Wachtel and drums by Max Weinberg. Waddy co-wrote the song with Mindi. This the song that Mindi's dad, Lance Abair plays on.

Kiddo's Revenge was co-written by Dave Yaden and is the song that he plays the piano on. In fact, the piano is pretty much side by side with the sax in this one. The song made me think a bit of a dramatic scene in a noir film with a touch of mystery and intrigue.

Getting down into a bit of sultry blues is Addicted To You. The sax starts out kind of aching then moves into a subtle groove. Helping sell the tone of the song is some masterful work on the Hammond B3 by Booker T. Jones. He also co-wrote the song with Mindi.

Closing down the album is Just Say When. This is the song that Dave Burris, Kevin Scott and Blake Colie play on. It is a mild Southern Rock styled song that features Greg Allman sharing vocals with Mindi. He also plays the Hammond B3 and guitar on the song. Mindi co-wrote the song with Greg.

Like I wrote earlier, Mindi Abair doesn't fit into a strict jazz musician mode. This album has elements of jazz but also old school pop /rock, some R & B, a bit of non-conventional rock, a slice of mellow Southern Rock and a few other styles mixed in. You won't find the classic tone of Coltrane here, but you won't find Kenny G styled music here either. What you will find is a kick-ass saxophonist who isn't afraid to forge her own style of jazz music.

Wild Heart is out in stores and available online at iTunes and amazon.com.

Mindi's official site is http://www.mindiabair.com/ . You can also check out her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MindiAbair?fref=ts .

The Concord Music Group also features other jazz artist such as Dave Koz, Lee Ritenour and Boney James. The site for Concord Music Group is http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/

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© 2015 Bruce E Von Stiers