It’s probably not fair to
pigeonhole Mindi Abair’s Wild Heart (Heads Up, 2014) as a
smooth jazz album. Sure, there’s a smooth or contemporary jazz element.
But this album is about Abair expressing herself through a variety of
moods, touching on blues, rock, funk and an all-around good time.
The core band consists of Abair, alto, tenor and baritone saxes; Adam
Berg, piano and keyboards; Itai Shapira, guitar and bass; Jake Najor,
drums; Todd Simon, trumpet; and Elizabeth Lea, trombone. Special guests
are sprinkled throughout.
Trombone Shorty sits in on the opening track, “Amazing Game.” Co-written
by Abair with Jim Peterik, who also plays percussion, this track has a
party vibe throughout. Abair, Shorty and other horns finish the song
with a celebratory flourish.
“Haute Sauce” is a hard-charging piece with Dave Yaden sitting in on
piano, and Blake Colie on drums. It’s a fairly short piece that packs
quite a punch.
Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MGs plays Hammond B3 organ on “I’ll
Be Your Home,” which also features Keb’ Mo’ on guitar, tambourine and
vocal. James Gadson handles drum duties. Abair and Keb’ have played on
each other’s records for many years. Their duet on this ballad makes it
one of the better tracks in the set.
Other noted guests are Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, Bruce
Springsteen’s E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and Gregg Allman.
Abair was featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of
American Idol and received a 2014 Grammy nomination in the Best Pop
Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns with Dave Koz,
Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot.
Abair’s career includes seven solo albums and countless collaborations
in studio and on stage. And her music crosses genres of rock, pop and
jazz. And a few tracks of Wild Heart also present a taste of
Abair’s paternal grandmother was an opera singer, and her father was a
B3 player in a band called the entertainers. Abair took up piano at the
age of 5, and turned to saxophone in the fourth grade. She took part in
every available band program 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.