In a career that spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations in the studio and live on stage, Mindi Abair has made her mark on a broad stretch of the musical landscape that includes jazz, pop, rock, R&B, soul, funk and more. The powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist has made scores of friends along the way and earned the respect of top-shelf artists across many genres.
In addition to her acclaimed body of solo work that includes ten #1 radio hits and close to half a million albums sold, Abair was the featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol, jammed with Paul Shaffer on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour.
In addition to years of hard work and dedication, Abair comes from an impressive pedigree. Her grandmother was an opera singer, and her father toured with The Entertainers as a saxophonist and B3 player - a gig that kept the whole family on the road. When the band broke up and the Abairs put down roots in St. Petersburg, Florida, five-year-old Mindi had already demonstrated musical aspirations of her own by taking up the piano.
She picked up the saxophone in the fourth grade and took part in every band program available in elementary, middle and high school. After a year at the University of North Florida, she transferred to Berklee College of Music, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in woodwind performance.
She took the advice of her saxophone teacher Joe Viola to start her own band. She landed in Los Angeles, where she toured with Teena Marie, John Tesh, Bobby Lyle and Jonathan Butler. When she was home from the road, she booked her own band in just about any club that would have them. On the occasions when none would, she played on the streets of Santa Monica.
Abair released her first album, the independently produced Always and Never the Same, in 1999 while touring with the Backstreet Boys. She signed with Verve in 2002 and released It Just Happens That Way, her major label debut, in 2003. This was the first in a string of chart-topping solo recordings on Verve that also included I Can’t Wait for Christmas (2004), Come As You Are (2005) and Life Less Ordinary (2007). She made the move to Peak, a division of Concord Music Group, with the 2008 release of Stars, an album that showcased her attractive vocal work, and In Hi-Fi Stereo followed in 2010.
Summer Horns, assembled by fellow saxophonist Dave Koz, came together for a record and tour, which included Abair, Koz, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright. The resulting sax foursome crafted a record that paid tribute to the great horn bands of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, including Tower of Power, Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, Sly & the Family Stone and Blood, Sweat & Tears. The album received a 2014 GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category.
If writing, recording and touring weren’t enough, Abair also began a two-year term in 2013 as President of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
A sense of power and reach has become part of Abair’s creative philosophy in recent years, and has made its way into her music as well. “I just want to play and create and keep moving forward.”