Mindi Abair: Not Your Father’s Jazz Band

Posted on 2015-07-15.

Mindi Abair

ON THE BEAT by Jim Bucher
Dayton City Paper, July 14, 2015

I hope you checked out my column last week on jazz musician Brian Culbertson coming to Fraze this Thursday night.

He would be reason enough to spend an awesome night at the outdoor venue, but when teamed with saxophonist extraordinaire Mindi Abair well, then you have the makings of an unforgettable evening of great music under the stars.

“Oh Brian is awesome and an amazing artist,” Abair says of Culbertson. “He’s an incredible guy and what can you say? The guy puts on a great show and we always have a great show together.”

Like many of the return artists to Fraze, Mindi loves it here.

“Fans are great there,” she says. “Great audience; I had a blast. It was great to be there with Summer Horns [last year]. But this is extra special bringing my band back, my project back, and hopefully getting those fans to get to know me a little better.”

So, how would you describe her sound?

“My band is not your father’s jazz band,” Abair says. “We come from many backgrounds, rock and roll, soul, funk, blues and we’re gonna wear you out. Don’t come thinking you’re just going to sip on a glass of wine. We want you up and dancing, moving and losing your mind because that’s what we do. We are definitely the rockers of the jazz world. We are high-energy, and want the audience to be a part of it and have as much fun as we do. That’s tough to do, I’m asking a lot of my audience.”

Abair says she is the quintessential band geek—which was imbedded early on from her family’s love of music.

“You know, some kids, their dad is a firefighter and they want to be a firefighter. Well, my dad played saxophone and my grandmother was an opera singer and I grew up for the first four or five years on the road with my father’s band which was a soul band,” she remembers. “Then later a rock band, and I’d sit there in the practice room and just listen. That went all the way through high school. I took every school band class they ever offered, was literally the uber-band geek and it worked for me. Now everybody wants concert tickets so being a band geek has its plusses when you grow up.”

As far as advice for youngsters who want to head down that musical path she took, it’s easy: love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.

“You hear people say that, but it’s so true,” she says. “I see so many kids, and I was one of them, who get psyched out or get told, ‘You can’t do that, that’s not for girls,’ or ‘You come from a poor neighborhood,’ so many reasons why we can’t do things.”

Fortunately, Mindi got some great advice from her pops while trying out for the Florida All State Jazz Band.

“He said, ‘just quit, it’s not that big of a deal.’ The reverse psychology worked and I went for it and got it. Then dad said, ‘You know, I hope you learned something from this. Sometimes it’s not the most talented kids that win, but rather the kids that go for it.’ That’s been my whole life. I’m sure there are plenty of people who can play better than me or write songs and sing better than me, but I’ve always put my best foot forward. Go out there and get it.”

Abair’s career has been hitting all the high notes with one of her most favorite recent accomplishments being an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” playing with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra.

“I was a big Letterman fan and grew up watching him,” Abair says. “And to play with Paul and the band, I kept pinching myself. And to have them play a couple of my songs was too cool. And to be with Letterman was just awesome.”

And speaking of, “those songs” are from her latest album, Wild Heart.

“It has some pretty cool guests on in,” she says. “I’ve got Gregg Allman—we wrote a song together, and Joe Perry from Aerosmith; again, it’s not your father’s jazz band or record. I have Trombone Shorty on it, Booker T, Max Weinberg from the E-Street Band … I hope you dig it.”

And no, it’s not my father’s jazz band, but bet he would LOVE it.



Brian Culbertson and Mindi Abair will perform at Fraze Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 16. For tickets and more information, please visit fraze.com

For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at [email protected]