Mindi Abair (born May 23, 1969 in St. Petersburg, Florida, United States) is an American two time Grammy Award nominated, American saxophonist, vocalist, author, and National Trustee for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that puts on The Grammys.
Her solo career has produced ten #1 radio singles, two #1 Billboard Jazz CDs, and four more solo CDs that have landed #5 and above on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. She was the featured saxophonist for the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol, joined Aerosmith, for their 2012 Summer Tour, joined Bruce Springsteen and Max Weinberg for a night at the Beacon Theater and has played with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra 3 times on the David Letterman Show.
Mindi Abair was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and spent much of her early life on the road with her father's band, The Entertainers. Her father, Lance Abair, played saxophone and keyboards, and her grandmother Virginia Rice was an opera singer, and piano and vocal instructor. Mindi started playing the piano at age five, and started playing alto saxophone at the age of eight, when her elementary school band instructor laid out instruments on the first day of band class and instructed each student to pick the instrument they most wanted to play. She acted as drum major of her high school marching band in her junior and senior years at Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg. And as a senior in high school, she auditioned and won the first chair alto saxophone for the Florida All-State Jazz Band. Abair spent her first year of college on a full scholarship at the University of North Florida, a jazz program started by Rich Matteson (North Texas State University). She then transferred to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where she attended on a scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Woodwind Performance. During her years at Berklee, Abair studied saxophone with Joe Viola and George Garzone. She formed her first band in college.
After graduation from Berklee College of Music in 1991, Abair moved to Los Angeles, where she began booking her band into clubs, coffee shops and hotels. She played solo on the street at 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and garnered the attention of jazz keyboardist Bobby Lyle, who hired her to record on his Power of Touch CD and tour with him. Her touring possibilities expanded over the next decade, as she toured as a saxophonist/singer and keyboardist with Adam Sandler, John Tesh, Jonathan Butler, Teena Marie, Rick Braun, and Lyle. Abair was featured on saxophone in the Go West video "Tell Me". And in 1996, she appeared on Adam Sandler's HBO Special, and recorded on his platinum CD What's Your Name? playing the saxophone solo on "The Lonesome Kicker" and singing on various tracks.
In 1999, Abair joined the Backstreet Boys for their Millennium World Tour, and spent the next year and a half as their saxophonist, keyboardist and percussionist. She put together Mandy Moore's first band, and acted as musical director, keyboardist, background singer and percussionist for many of her first television appearances and shows.
In her off time from touring, Abair released her first complete solo record, Always and Never the Same, an all vocal pop record, independently. Abair performed in local Los Angeles rock clubs to promote the record, in addition to her touring with the Backstreet Boys.
In 2003, Abair signed to Verve Records and released the album It Just Happens That Way, which peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart and remained in the Top 10 for 19 consecutive weeks. Billboard magazine named It Just Happens That Way one of the top 10 Contemporary Jazz CDs of the year. Her hit single "Lucy's" was No. 1 on R&R for a record-breaking eight weeks.
In 2004, Abair released "Come As You Are", which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts.
Abair released Life Less Ordinary in 2006, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart and remained in the top 20 for 45 weeks. Her songs "True Blue" and "Bloom" hit No. 1 on R&R.
Abair signed to Concord Records in 2007, and released her genre breaking Stars in 2008 which peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. Her single "Stars" (co-written and produced by Matthew Hager) charted at No. 29 Adult Contemporary R&R simultaneously with her single "Smile" which reached No. 1 on the R&R jazz airplay charts.
Abair released "Hi-Fi Stereo" in 2010 which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. The album spawned the No. 1 Jazz hit "Be Beautiful" written by David Ryan Harris.
She filled in as the saxophonist with the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman on April 3 & 4, 2012. She sat in with the band again on July 29, 2014, and performed her own original songs "Wild Heart" and "Train."
In 2013, Abair collaborated with Dave Koz, Richard Elliot, and Gerald Albright for the Grammy nominated album Summer Horns.
On May 27, 2014, Abair released "Wild Heart" on Concord Records imprint, Heads Up International. The record debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and #152 on the Billboard Top 200. The record was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album in the 2015 Grammy Awards.
Abair received the "Mad Skills" award from She Rocks at NAMM on January 24, 2015.
Abair featured on the 2011 American Idol season as a soloist with Paul McDonald and Casey Abrams and playing behind contestants Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart. Steven Tyler remarked to McDonald after her debut on the show "Forget you, who's your sax player?" Abair was featured on the 2012 American Idol season, performing with Phillip Phillips. Abair appeared with Phillips six times as a featured saxophonist, performing the songs "U Got It Bad" originally by Usher, "Disease" originally by Matchbox Twenty, "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Movin' Out" originally by Billy Joel, "In The Midnight Hour" originally by Wilson Pickett and "Give A Little More" originally by Maroon 5.
Tyler was so impressed with Abair that he invited her to join Aerosmith on the summer leg of their 2012 world tour playing sax and singing backing vocals. Video exists of Abair duetting with Joey Kramer during his drum solo.
How To Play Madison Square Garden - A Guide To Stage Performance:
In 2011, Abair self-published her first book, How To Play Madison Square Garden, a guide to stage performance. The book was released on Amazon as both a kindle and in paperback, and has a 5 star rating. John Taylor of Duran Duran, and veteran of Madison Square Garden said of the book; "For the next generation of wanna-be arena-fillers, there is now an alternative to spending years on the road, playing empty dives, and pimping out the bass player to get radio play. Mindi Abair's book gives away every professional secret of how to make it to Madison Square Garden. And how to get an encore!"
Mindi Abair Jewelry:
After attending an Abair concert in New York City, jewelry mogul Carrie Dawes felt inspired by Abair's edgy yet sexy music and fashion sense. She immediately asked Mindi to partner in designing a jewelry line that would reflect her unique rock 'n' roll style mixed with own luxurious sensibility. The duo decided to call the line Mindi Abair Jewelry - Jewelry That Rocks. The line launched December 2014 with necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings that feature champagne rose cut diamonds set in blackened silver.
Chill With Mindi Abair:
In 2007, Abair took over the nationally syndicated radio program Chill with Chris Botti which he had hosted for two years. The name changed to "Chill With Mindi Abair," which she hosted from 2007 to 2015. The focus of the program was chill out music.
National Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences:
In 2009, Abair was elected as a Governor on the Board of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, serving for three years until 2012, when she was elected as Secretary. She spent one year serving as Secretary. In 2013, Abair was elected to a 2-year term as the President of the Los Angeles Chapter, taking over the position from the previous President, MC Lyte.