Contemporary Jazz

Seeing Stars


The only drawback to the setting of Mindi Abair's Sept. 12 cozy outdoor amphitheatre show at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach -- part of 94.7 The Wave's Summer Jazz Series -- was the slight cloud cover.

It would have been more atmospherically apropos for there to be hundreds of Stars to gaze at when she sang the sensuously romantic title track from her Peak debut.

Going on seven years since she blasted out of a major career as a sideperson (Backstreet Boys, Adam Sandler) and into the hearts of urban jazz fans everywhere, Abair is still one of the hottest live tickets in the genre, mixing those catchy singalong "da da" vocals, punchy and instantly infectious melodies and increasingly dynamic improvisational blowing on her saxes.

At the recent show, dressed sexy yet sporty in a sparkling gold halter top, she dug into her trademark mix of cheery pop hits ("Lucy's," "True Blue," "Bloom," "Smile") and muscular jazz fusion ("The Joint," Nat Adderley's soul jazz classic "Work Song"). Abair and her crackling, old school soul-rock driven ensemble took the laid back audience on a wild ride through her past influences and more heavily vocal-slanted present and future, with fiery chops, jamming breakdowns and entertaining duels by her bandmates.

The Summer Jazz Series continued the following Friday with one of the final 2008 shows of Abair's labelmate Norman Brown's Summer Storm tour, featuring saxman Paul Taylor, Swiss keyboardist Alex Bugnon and veteran R&B/jazz vocal stylist Chante Moore.