Mindi Abair is an American saxophonist, bandleader, vocalist, and author. Her tone is gritty, emotive, and dynamic. In addition to leading Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, she is a first-call session player whose work has graced albums by a diverse range of artists including Keb' Mo', Mocean Worker, and Michael Feinstein. Abair signed with GRP for 2003′s It Just Happens That Way. 2006′s Life Less Ordinary netted two hit singles and peaked at number one. In 2007, she began hosting Chill Out with Mindi Abair on Sirius XM, a role she held for eight years. 2008′s Stars landed inside the Top Ten on two jazz charts. Abair worked alongside saxophonists Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, and Richard Elliot on the Grammy-nominated Summer Horns. Her chart-topping 2014 album Wild Heart featured contributions from Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, and Trombone Shorty. Later that year, she teamed with Randy Jacobs to form Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, they released Live in Seattle in 2015. EastWest Sessions followed in 2017 and included guest spots by Joe Bonamassa and Fantastic Negrito. 2018′s All I Got for Christmas Is the Blues debuted at seven on the blues chart. In June 2019, Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers released the Top Five No Good Deed. In 2022, she issued the solo outing Forever, comprised entirely of originals.
Born on tour into a musical family, Mindi Abair was playing piano by age five. Within three years, she was playing saxophone and writing songs. She made her way through the Berklee College of Music performing in genres ranging from jazz to rock to R&B. After moving to Los Angeles, Abair started her own band. She also took on session work with artists as diverse as the Gap Band, Adam Sandler, Mandy Moore, John Tesh, Teena Marie, and the Backstreet Boys (with whom she toured in 1999). The Backstreet Boys connection paid off. She created a website and issued her self-titled debut album in 1999.
2000 saw the release of the follow-up Always and Never the Same. Critically acclaimed, it won Abair a deal with Verve/GRP. She issued It Just Happens That Way as her label debut in 2003. The tracks “Lucy’s,” “Save the Last Dance,” as well as the title cut went Top Ten at jazz radio, while the album went to number seven on the contemporary jazz album chart. A year later, she returned with Come as You Are, her second set produced with writing partner and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Hager. In 2006, Abair released Life Less Ordinary, which featured guest vocal appearances from Lalah Hathaway and Keb' Mo'. The album peaked at number one on the Contemporary Jazz Chart, netted two hit singles in “True Blue” and “Bloom,” and remained in the Top 20 for 45 weeks.
The following year, she appeared on guitarist and frequent collaborator Peter White’s self-titled Christmas album, and released her own Stars, an 11-song set that showcased her singing and piano playing alongside her saxophone skills. Critically celebrated for the seamless integration of her vocals in a bevy of beautifully written original songs, it peaked at four on the contemporary jazz chart, and at number seven at jazz albums. 2010′s In Hi-Fi Stereo featured a mix of jazz instrumentals with a few Abair vocal numbers in an album-length tribute to soul-jazz.
Abair published the book How to Play Madison Square Garden: A How-To Guide to Stage Performance in 2011, and appeared as an instrumentalist on the year’s American Idol season playing behind contestants Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart. She was also featured on the 2012 season performing with Phillip Phillips. Judge Steven Tyler was so impressed with Abair that he invited her to join Aerosmith on their 2012 summer world tour playing and singing backing vocals. It was the first time Aerosmith had employed a solo saxophonist since 1973.
Abair returned to recording with 2014′s Wild Heart, which featured guest spots from Keb' Mo', Booker T. Jones, Trombone Shorty, Gregg Allman, and Joe Perry. Debuting at number one at jazz albums, it received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. After touring in support with guitarist Randy Jacobs and the Boneshakers, they decided to join forces. As Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers (the band also included vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson, keyboardist Rodney Lee, bassist/vocalist Derek Frank and drummer Third Richardson), they released Live in Seattle via a Pledge Music campaign and HeadsUp.
In the summer of 2017, the group spent five days recording at EastWest Studios with producer Kevin Shirley. The resulting The EastWest Sessions was released by Abair’s Pretty Good for a Girl label through Concord; the set debuted at number three on the blues albums chart. Its single “Pretty Good for a Girl” included a guest vocal by Joe Bonamassa. The album took home eight Independent Blues Awards including Artist of the Year, Best Contemporary Blues Band, and Best Female Artist.
Along with founding her label, Abair created a web platform with the same title to celebrate and empower women, with the goal of making Pretty Good for a Girl a slogan of feminist empowerment. That year, she also played on Atkinson’s Get What You Deserve and Miranda Lee Richardson’s Existential Beast. In October 2018, Abair and the Boneshakers issued their first holiday collection, All I Got for Christmas Is the Blues, comprised of originals and holiday standards. The following year, they released the rocking, gritty No Good Deed, which peaked at three on the blues album charts. While touring with the band, Abair wrote a slew of more intimate compositions for an upcoming solo date. Two years later, The Best of Mindi Abair appeared from Pretty Good for a Girl. In July, she appeared with Duran Duran bassist John Taylor on “Dead Days and Gatorade” by International House of Prayer CCM artist Merchant Band.
Later that year, Abair and husband, former wine executive Eric Guerra, launched their company Wine + Music Adventures, pairing travel, music, and fine wine. She also released the single “Forever” — her first solo track since 2014 — as the precursor to an album of the same title. The full-length appeared in March 2022. It included ten original love songs with Abair on lead vocals as well as saxophone. The set included guest spots from the Mavericks’ Raul Malo and blues-rock guitarist/vocalist Kenny Wayne Shepherd. ~ Gary Hill & Thom Jurek