Mindi Abair - Stars (Peak Records)

late night rendezvousOver half a decade after Mindi Abair broke onto the smooth jazz scene with her hit debut “It Just Happens That Way”, she’s still an A-lister for summer and winter tours, festivals and cruises, has her own syndicated radio show “Chill With Mindi Abair” and recently went international with her first concerts in Istanbul and Romania. Now she’s seeing Stars, the name of her Peak Records debut that keeps her trademark instrumental sound hip and edgy and includes more original vocal tracks (five) than ever before.

Fans across the country can’t get enough of her jamming stage show or the way she textures those cool “da da” vocals with her blazing sax on the #1 airplay hits that established her, “Lucy’s” and “True Blue.” Stars offer that vibe on the first instrumental single “Smile,” but it’s the five vocals that are the real revelation here. She adds a refreshingly unique voice to an exciting new generation of crossover artists who are, like her, powerful instrumentalists as well as thought-provoking singer/songwriters. The Florida raised, Los Angeles based performer’s unique hybrid sound and mix of cool vulnerability and utter conviction is primed to give all of them—John Mayer, Feist, Corinne Bailey Rae, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys—a run for their barrier breaking money.

Perhaps John Taylor, famed bassist from 80s icons Duran Duran, says it best about her stunning melodies and thought provoking lyrics: “Mindi is unique. Listen to her new album ‘Stars,’ a genre-busting, breathtaking combination of contemporary jazz and Top 40 torch songs. It will be love at first listen.” Helping Abair and her guitarist/producer Matthew Hager realize her creative and fearless “outside the box” musical vision is a choice group of stalwarts from the pop world: keyboardist Ricky Peterson (John Mayer, Prince), drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. (Paul McCartney) and Richard Dodd, cello player for The Foo Fighters. 

Abair’s lively and aggressive, full-scale immersion in the pop/rock singer/songwriter world on Stars is not a departure, but rather a natural extension of the high profile success she’s had with many of her previous vocal songs. I Can Remember from “Come As You Are” was featured in the opening episode of the Aaron Spelling hit “Summerland,” while Every Time was featured in last year’s Robin Williams/Mandy Moore comedy “License To Wed.” Panasonic featured her video for Every Time on their Jumbotron in Times Square in 2005. The singer also scored big with a song that has become a perennial pop holiday favorite, I Can’t Wait For Christmas; the track was featured in 2005 on the Bath and Body Works Christmas CD (between classics by James Brown and Stevie Wonder!) and the Pier One Christmas CD, which sold a combined total of over 800,000 units. 

With the media so immersed in reflecting the ongoing despair and difficulties of life around the globe in the 2000s, Abair’s ultimate goal with her five vocal tracks on Stars is to bring light to the darkness, an unapologetic, optimistic sense of hope and idealism to a world that needs it more than ever. Case in point: the lilting folk/pop tune Change, written with frequent collaborator Tyrone Stevens, which reminds us that change is the one thing we can count on, and also the concept that can bring us all together. On the power pop ballad flavored first single and title track, she looks to the “Stars” as a connective thread between lovers who are far apart in physical distance. The Elton John/Lionel Richie influenced On and On reflects wistfully on the innocence of her small town youth (in St. Petersburg, Florida) and the way music has become an integral spiritual part of so many people’s lives.

Abair’s heartfelt, keyboard driven anthem I Wonder is her generation’s twist on the concept of “Imagine,” a song that finds her contemplating a world in which people actually do love one another, offer hope to each other and treat others as they wished to be treated. Here For You is an uplifting, autobiographical old school soul/blues ballad that chronicles her incredible years long friendship with her longtime co-writer/producer Matthew Hager.

 

Website: www.mindiabair.com

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- Jonathan Widran