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Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre

Walter Atkins By

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When I came off tour (with Aerosmith), I wanted to bring that power-that sheer abandon to my own career, and my next record reflected that. —Mindi Abair
Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers
The Empress Theatre
The EastWest Sessions CD Release Party
Vallejo, CA
November 10, 2017

Two time Grammy nominated saxophonist Mindi Abair, primarily known as a successful smooth/contemporary jazz musician and vocalist has moved into a new funk and rock oriented direction. Tonight's date at downtown Vallejo's Empress Theatre, featured tracks from her new CD The EastWest Sessions (Pretty Good For A Girl Records, 2017). Along her musical and personal growth path, Abair had incorporated relevant themes of women's empowerment and celebration. This new career heading pleasantly included " joining forces" with guitarist and vocalist Randy Jacobs, band leader of the Boneshakers (Bonnie Raitt, Was (Not Was), BB King). Jacobs' credits included co writing the 1987 W(NotW) top ten hit," Walk The Dinosaur" with David and Don Was.

Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers were: Abair-saxophones and vocals; Jacobs-guitars and vocals; Derek Frank-bass and vocals; Frank "Third" Richardson-drums and vocals; and Rodney Lee- keyboards. The evening's exciting set list included tracks from the new album: "Vinyl," "Not That Kind Of Girl," "Wild Heart," "Play To Win," "Pretty Good For A Girl," "Bow wow wow wow," "Gone," "Voodoo Child" (Slight Return), "Bloom," "Had To Learn The Hard Way," "Summertime," "Flirt," "Lucy's," and "Freedom."

Abair & Co. cranked up their absorbing session with "Vinyl," the first track from the new disc. She cleverly compared a hot love relationship to a spinning record, singing ..."in your grove like a needle on vinyl." The instrumental "Not That Kind" featured the band in a funky full swing with Abair's saxophone wailing. "Wild Heart" includes some moments of Jacobs' expressive guitar work. "Play" opened up with Jacobs' solid guitar riffs immediately followed by Abair's almost defiant vocals. This set up the centerpiece track "Pretty Good For A Girl" that focused on the condescending comments about female artists heard excessively from record labels- ("We have enough sax players...We have no idea how to market you."). The song addressed rolling with the professional setbacks and eventually persevering. Overall, it's was a positive, thoughtful, sometimes humorous response.

She described the upcoming "Bow Wow" selection with a smile. "It's a little nasty-I think you'll like it." Jacobs went off here with his crowd pleasing guitar pyrotechnics. Richard's extended drum solo near the break was one of many show highlights. During the intermission, there was a raffle for a drum head and CD signed by the band that generated $600 for Wine Country relief efforts. When the bidding appeared to be slowing down at one point, the friendly house manager Kevin assisted as auctioneer. After the break, Abair picked up with "Gone" featuring bassist Frank. The ominously bottom heavy tune told the bluesy story of a couple's impending breakup from a weary woman's prospective. This was followed by a killer version of Jimi Hendrix's eternal rock classic "Voodoo Child." The group went all in on their powerful presentation of the rock staple.

The saxophonist referred to "Bloom" as "stadium jazz." A node to her work on large arena tours with acts ranging from Aerosmith to the Backstreet Boys. On "Learn," she sang about gaining experience in her own way, sometimes that included the "hard way." Lee's keyboard work provided the intro and Abair's triumphant horn work was supported by a strong rock beat and back ground vocal contributions. The arrangement for the jazz standard "Summertime" had a warm, sanguine feel to it. "Flirt" and "Lucy's" were both bouncy numbers from her earlier song book. "Freedom," the closer also from the new record, started with Lee's church like keyboards and went into high gear with more of Jacob's fluid guitar runs. There were plenty of people in the house shakin' their bones on the dance floor for the encore.

A sold out Friday night Empress crowd was treated to the latest music and energy from Abair. The EastWest Sessions CD release party ended with a strong finish that emphatically confirmed a new musical direction and personal freedom for Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers.

All About Jazz met with saxophonist Mindi Abair for an insightful interview. Here is an excerpt.

All About Jazz: I was going to ask you where the "Boneshakers" band name came from.

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