Mindi Abair blends her music styles across multiple genres

Published on March 22nd, 2021

By Jim Dail

Mindi Abair wasn’t exactly planning to make a jump to a whole new style of music. Having found tremendous success as a solo artist playing jazz and in some sense, pop, she was flying high.

However, that all changed a couple years ago when she joined The Boneshakers.

“It came about so organically, and I wasn’t worried about it,” she said. “I think if you make music with your friends and people who you respect and come from a pure place then it’s going to be fun and great, and I always want to make music I think is great.”

Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers will perform Sunday night at Thornton Winery as part of the 2018 Champagne Jazz Concert Series.

In going with a new sound, Abair, of course, understood the trepidations some might have.

“You don’t know if anyone else will like it,” she said. “It all happened in Newport Beach. I was on one stage and The Boneshakers were on the other stage and I sat in on it. There was something about joining forces to make something a little different.”

The result has been two albums, “Live in Seattle,” and “The EastWest Sessions.”

“It was inspiring,” she said. “That’s what music is supposed to be, and it is nice when people like it as much as we do.”

And The Boneshakers are certainly no strangers to the music scene, featuring Randy Jacobs on guitar, Rodney Lee on keyboards, Derek Frank on bass, Third Richardson on drums and Sweat Pea Atkinson on vocals. And the results speak for themselves.

“A few people have walked away, but it’s literally 1percent,” she said. “Most say it is rocking. We are still on the blue chart. We debuted last year at Number 3 and have bounced up and down. If we are on the road, we are on the chart.”

Not only that, but “The EastWest Sessions” won 8 2018 Independent Blues Awards, not to mention earning the praise of such notables as Steven Tyler, Bonnie Raitt and Keb’ Mo’.

She credits her fans for sticking with her and the band.

“I was surprised how well I did on it,” she said. “Making something that moves outside of the genre you are in is a tricky business. A lot of people will say, ‘Don’t do that.’ It is interesting because our fans listen to blues and listen to rock and they listen to jazz and soul. Fans of my music have been really cool music listeners so we’ve had most people come up and say we love this record because it is full of energy.”

And they’ve reached a whole new group of people.

“For people who don’t know us, it opened the doors,” she said. Now, blues radio is playing us and blues magazines are covering us. We can play jazz festivals or blues festivals. I love the chance to expand.”
Then again, she has never been just pure jazz, whatever that label even means.

“When I started I was an indie artist, did a lot of singing and I was initially from the pop/rock genre, but as time went by I started doing more instrumentals and that’s what I became known for,” she said.

And looking at her catalog, there is a range of music tucked away on the CDs.

“Early on I was inspired by Stevie Wonder, especially his harmonica solos and Marvin Gaye, all of his music,” she said. “It was about change and jazz is supposed to go through changes, supposed to break the rules. Jazz is the type of music that can morph.”

And as she and the band prepare to work on a new record, she’s approaching it the same way.

“I just spent a week in Nashville writing and we wrote a few songs together and are totally gearing up for a record to probably be out late spring,” she said. “Nashville has a craft to what they do and the songwriter in Nashville is this really artful job. Nashville thinks about songwriting like no one else and they try to craft incredible music. Even for the last record, I wrote a lot for the record in Nashville, but only took one song, ‘Vinyl.’”

So now does that mean The Boneshakers are going country?

“Lots of people on my ‘Stars’ record noticed that it was half vocal and half instrumental, so they wondered if I was going pop or country,” she said. “I’m not trying to go pop and not trying to go country. I’m really inspired by all of it, so it’s all going to seep out the pores at some point. Thank god!”

Then again, she does have something new for fans: A Christmas album, “All I got for Christmas is the Blues.”

“It’s coming out October 26, and it is my first ever full-length Christmas record,” she said. “I did two songs when I first came out on Verve Records and did songs with Peter White and Rick Braun, but never a full album. We really shook up Christmas!”

The thing about the band is that they have so much experience and camaraderie it really shows in both the studio and the stage.

“We draw from everything, from all the records and stuff that we like that may not be on a record,” she said. “We cherry pick songs the band sounds great on. I think we’ve been around long enough I want to play the full gamut.”

And everyone is a major part of every show.

“We want everyone to shine,” she said. “Some have said, ‘Oh my god. You give your guitar player too much.’ I’m thinking, Miles Davies had the best leaders like John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley. He wanted to give away the spotlight. When someone comes to see the show they get to see everyone showcasing their talents.”


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