Sometimes, trends are a good thing. A number of recording artists have dipped back into old-school soundsnot necessarily remaking hits, but making new music using older styles. Saxophonist Mindi Abair follows suit with In Hi-Fi Stereo, a set of mostly original music.
Abair was surrounded by musicians as a child, with a grandmother singing opera and a father playing saxophone and Hammond B-3 organ. At the age of 5, she took up the piano. She later studied woodwinds, eventually adopting the alto sax. Her early career was marked with touring gigs with keyboardists John Tesh and Bobby Lyle, and guitarist Jonathan Butler. For In Hi-Fi Stereo, Abair is accompanied by a variable lineup of session players. The core unit consists of keyboardists Stephen "Stevo" Theard and Rex Rideout, drummer James E. Gadson, guitarist Randy Jacobs and bassist Reggie McBride.
Abair comes out of the gate with a sassy groove on "Any Way You Wanna." McBride lays down a cool bass line, accented by Jacobs' electric guitar. Abair's middle solo takes on a vocal quality that might be mistaken for David Sanborn.
"All Star" slows things down just a tadbut only a tad. Lee Thornberg and Dave Woodard double on trumpet and flugelhorn, and tenor and baritone saxophones, respectively, giving the effect of a full horn section. Underneath are Rideout on piano and Cassandra O'Neal on B-3. Abair and the horns play well off each other.
Vocalist Ryan Collins leads on the bouncy "Get Right." No credit is given for keyboard, but its jaunty rhythm is part of what makes the song work. McBride, Jacobs and Gadson are solid in the background. Collins' voice is an excellent contrast to Abair's sax.
More so than most of the other tracks, "Down for the Count" has a feel for late 1960s or early '70s soul. It's almost possible to hear B.T. Express' "Do It 'Til You're Satisfied" playing alongside. Jamey Tate takes over the drum seat, with Jay Gore on electric guitar and Rodney Lee performing the Wurlitzer solo.
The most adventurous selection is the cover of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's World," with Lalah Hathaway as lead vocalist. Rideout handles the Rhodes, and O'Neal the B-3. Thornberg assists Abair with the horn section fills. It can easily be argued that this is Abair's best effort on the recording, despite serious challenges from other tracks.
In Hi-Fi Stereo is a nod to high-fidelity, a production standard that minimized noise and distortion, as well as the music recorded at a time when the term "hi-fi" was a major selling point for the recordings and the playback deviceseven if though some devices did not meet the technical specifications. To that period, Abair credits among her inspirations for this work Al Green, Alan Toussaint, Junior Walker, King Curtis, and Archie Bell and the Drells.
Track Listing: Any Way You Wanna; All Star; L'Esprit Nouveau; Get Right; Be Beautiful; Down for the Count; Girls' Night Out; Let the Whole World Know (Sing Your Song); It's a Man's Man's World; Take Me Home; The Alley.
Personnel: Mindi Abair: alto saxophone, horn arrangement (1, 2, 4, 6-9), vocals (3, 5, 8); James E. Gadson: drums (1-4, 7-10); Reggie McBride: bass (1, 2, 4, 6-11), upright bass (3); Randy Jacobs: electric guitar (1, 2, 4, 7-10), acoustic guitar (3, 4, 8); Stephen "Stevo" Theard: keyboards (1, 6), arrangement (1, 6, 10), programming (6); Rex Rideout: Wurlitzer (1, 5, 11), keyboards (1, 7), piano (2, 3, 10), programming (6, 8), Rhodes (8, 9); Cassandra O'Neal: Hammond B-3 (2, 3, 8, 9); Lee Thornberg: trumpet and trombone (2, 8, 9); Dave Woodford: tenor and baritone saxophones (2, 8); Bud Harner: ride cymbal (3); Ryan Collins: lead and background vocals (4); David Ryan Harris: guitar and vocals (5); Michael White: drums (5); Smitty Smith: bass (5); Dewayne Swan: Hammond B-3 (5); Jamey Tate: drums (6); Jay Gore: electric guitar (6, 11); Rodney Lee: Wurlitzer solo (6), Hammond B-3 solo (11); Jessi Collins: background vocals (8); Lalah Hathaway: lead and background vocals (9), vocal arrangement (9); Phil Parlapiano: Rhodes, Arp keyboard and organ (10); Lance Abair: Hammond B-3 (11).