In Hi-Fi Stereo
is a departure from what we’ve all come to expect from saxophonist Mindi Abair. Her previous releases, while all good, were neat and polished in a way that smooth jazz music tends to be most of the time. In Hi-Fi Stereo
is the antithesis of that. It’s not neat and pretty. It’s raw, edgy, and it’s got some grit to it. This CD is reminiscent of old school R&B, funk, and soul, so it’s only fitting that Mindi has enlisted the help of veteran R&B drummer, James Gadson, described by Modern Drummer magazine as “one of the most recorded drummers in R&B history, and, one of the greatest timekeepers of the past 40-plus years.”
The CD opens with “Any Way You Wanna,” a blast of funk from Ms. Abair, which she co-wrote with Stevo Theard (best known as Dave Koz’s drummer.) “All Star” follows next. Mindi chose to add a horn section to this song, giving it a bit of a retro feel. “L’Espirt Noveau” continues the old school style, with the intro piano melody repeated throughout the song. There are four songs that contain vocals on this CD, two of them have vocals as the main focus, and the other two have them as supplements to the saxophone lead music. For me, the strength of this CD lies not in its vocals, but in the power of the instrumentation, (with one big exception I’ll get to later.) This power is best exemplified on “Down for the Count,” another song co-written with Stevo Theard. It’s Mindi and her regular band (Jamey Tate, Jay Gore, and Rodney Lee,) playing down and dirty. This is the one I hope they add to their set list, because if it sounds this good recorded, it’s going to sound incredible when they play it live and unrestrained. “Take Me Home” continues the flow. This is another tune which will remind the listener of the glory days of the R&B and soul genre.
As previously stated, there are four songs containing vocals, one of which is the James Brown classic, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” which features vocalist Lalah Hathaway. The fact that two women provide the power and emotion on this song is somewhat ironic. When you hear Lalah sing, and Mindi play, you don’t believe for one second that it is a man’s world at all.
There is a saying that everything old is new again, and that’s kind of what this CD is. Mindi does a great job of paying tribute to the early years of R&B, funk, and soul, while putting her own present day mark on it.