Of the varied mix of female artists that are currently populating contemporary music, few are creating as compelling a presence as Mindi Abair. Her diverse compositions and lively style, which she adeptly demonstrated to the world on her 2003 GRP debut hit record, It Just Happens That Way, are mischievous, playful, intelligent and gratifying. It was recognized by Billboard magazine as one of the Top 10 contemporary jazz CDs of the year, and by JazzWeek as the #1 most-played contemporary jazz CD of 2003. "Lucy's", the first single from the CD, spent eight weeks at #1 and tied for the longest running #1 single by a debut artist at NAC radio. The CD debuted at #3 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart, and stayed in the Top 10 for 19 consecutive weeks. John McMullen, the operations manager at WQCD and WRKS in New York City commented, "Mindi has created more than a new single. She's leading a new movement in music." A year and a half later, she has just finished a sold out tour opening for Josh Groban, her debut CD It Just Happens That Way remains in the Top 20 of Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart, and Mindi is quickly becoming the model for a new generation of breakthrough jazz artists.
Mindi's highly anticipated release Come As You Are (released by GRP on September 14, 2004) demonstrates her musical maturity, confidence, and expertise in a tight eleven-song package that effortlessly explores modern pop to traditional jazz. "I felt like I wanted to go a little deeper on this record, to push myself into some new areas and show some different aspects of who I am," Abair says. While Mindi hinted at her vocal prowess on her debut CD, she now steps forward as an exceedingly beguiling vocalist with three songs that are highlights of the record. There is also a "hidden" track named for Mindi's address while at Berklee College of Music, "26 Hemenway". It features Mindi Abair and Russell Ferrante writing and playing together in a fun, fast, and more traditional setting. "I like albums that take you on a journey," she says, "and that's what I wanted to achieve with this one."
Mindi grew up surrounded by music and spent much of her early life on tour with her father, accomplished saxophonist/keyboardist Lance Abair, who toured with a R&B/soul band. So began a passion that would lead her from a hobbyist to a venerate professional. She began playing keyboards at the age of five and picked up the saxophone at eight. "Music was mostly what was around me, and it came very naturally to me. I never made a clear choice that music was going to be my life. It kind of chose me." After graduating from the prestigious Berklee College of Music with a degree in woodwind performance, Mindi made her way to Los Angeles. "I was desperate to play immediately when I moved to LA, but you can't just walk into the music business there. I didn't know a soul, but I was determined. I played in every jam session I'd find in the paper. I put together my own band and played my own music in every local club that would book me. At one point I even played on the street. I needed to pay my bills, but I wanted to pay them playing music." Her tenacity paid off, eventually landing her the coveted role as a touring musician with the likes of Jonathan Butler, Bobby Lyle, Duran Duran, comedian/musician Adam Sandler, and Mandy Moore. In 2000, at the height of their popularity, Mindi was asked to accompany The Backstreet Boys on their sold out "Millennium" world tour. "Touring with such a diverse combination of artists really helped me to grow up and discover what I had to say as an artist," she states. "Every show that I played and every band that I played with helped make me who I am."
Come As You Are makes abundantly clear that she's her own woman, combining an unmistakably contemporary sensibility with a solid grounding in jazz tradition. Mindi conveys meaning and sensitivity to an ever-expanding audience not only through her well-crafted songs, but also through her affecting voice and the nuance of her saxophone. "This album is very different from my first album. I explored more of myself, more of my influences, and I wrote a collection of songs that express different emotions and experiences from the last year and a half. I think it's not the album people will expect from me. It's the album I wanted to make."
Abair credits much of Come As You Are's intimate vibe to the spontaneous, homespun manner in which it was recorded, in the home of her producer, longtime friend and frequent co-composer Matthew Hager. "Most of it was recorded in Matthew's bungalow, which is right across the street from my house in Hollywood," she explains. "The recording studio can be a cold, lifeless environment, but this was the opposite of that. We'd sit and write on the porch or in the living room, and when we'd finish a song, I'd walk right into the bathroom, which we turned into a cozy saxophone booth-and record it. It was a very cool way to make a record. We could afford to experiment and try crazy things, because there was no studio clock running and no one watching over us. We could write anything we wanted, and we did. I had been on the road for almost a year straight, and I had so much music inside me that I wanted to get out. This album is a very honest compilation of what is in my heart at this point. I felt that it was really appropriate, taking that into consideration, to use my friends and the players I came up the ranks with to record it. My dad's even on it!"
Indeed, Mindi Abair has never been one to be held back by other people's expectations. "When I was a kid," she says, "no one ever told me it was odd or unusual to be a woman playing saxophone. By the time somebody told me, it was too late. And now here I am."
--- from the official Mindi Abair website