Any artist who takes his or her craft seriously will inevitably reach a point on the journey when history can no longer be overlooked. The direct line between the music of now and the music of then becomes too important to ignore, and the riches of generations past are suddenly rediscovered—and eventually reinterpreted for a new era.
Saxophonist Mindi Abair has reached that critical juncture. After more than a decade of performing, songwriting and recording, she has taken a step back from the more polished sensibilities of contemporary jazz and embraced the sounds of past decades—specifically the ‘60s and early ‘70s, a period widely regarded as the golden age of R&B, soul and funk. The result is In Hi-Fi Stereo, her new album set for release on May 18, 2010, on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group. The album captures the raw and edgy aesthetic of that golden age, when a slab of vinyl could instantaneously put band and listener together in the same room and establish a visceral and enduring connection. Loaded with infectious grooves generated by a high-caliber crew of players, In Hi-Fi Stereo rekindles that spark for a new generation of ears.
"This album is a reflection of some of the older, more funky stuff I've been listening to in the last couple years," says Abair, firing off a list of favorites that include Al Green, Alain Toussaint, Junior Walker, King Curtis, Archie Bell and the Drells, and many others. "I think it all kind of seeped into me over time. I wanted to move away from a more produced sound and just get into the studio and play. It didn't have to be perfect. It didn't have to be shiny and new. It's not an intellectual record. It's a fun, feel-good record inspired by some of those great sounds and grooves from that period, but recast for a modern audience."
Co-produced by Abair and R&B mainstay Rex Rideout (who also lays down keyboards on nearly every track), In Hi-Fi Stereo includes a roster of players representing the old school as well as the new. In addition to Abair's touring band, the album is seasoned with a number of guest players: veteran drummer Steve Gadson (a frequent session player for Bill Withers), bassist Reggie McBride and vocalists Lalah Hathaway, Ryan Collins and David Ryan Harris.
Hanging with talented musicians is nothing new for Abair. Her paternal grandmother was an opera singer, and her father was a saxophonist and B3 player in a blue-eyed soul outfit called The Entertainers—a gig that kept the whole family on the road for several years throughout the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. By the time the band broke up and the Abairs put down roots in St. Petersburg, Florida, five-year-old Mindi had already demonstrated musical aspirations of her own by taking up the piano.