A few years before she became a saxy smooth jazz instrumental star, Mindi Abair presented an all-vocal CD in the pop-rock vein. She’s snuck in vocals on subsequent CDs and even had some success with them on adult contemporary radio. Her vocal tunes have even made it into a major motion picture and a popular TV show geared toward twentysomethings. Now, Abair clearly has a new market in sight with Stars, with five vocals mixing it up among six instrumentals. Could Abair soon join the company of trendy pop-rock singers like Feist, Sara Bareilles and Yael Naim? Her voice certainly holds up, with its earnest wistfulness carrying appealingly autobiographical songs about love and longing, best realized in “On and On.” Let’s put it this way—Abair’s one Apple commercial away from superstardom.
But Abair hasn’t lost sight of what is, so far, her meal ticket: sassy, party-hearty instrumental songs like “Mojo” and “Gonna Be Alright.” The quintessential Abair instrumental is delivered with “Smile,” a hook-filled cut with a bounty of her familiar vocal “da-da-da-da’s.” Kudos, though, for not marching back to the to the template that’s worked so swimmingly on her previous three CDs, as “Out of the Blue” offers a spare—but not simple—’70s vibe, and “F.L.A. Swing” is a reggae/blues co-written by John Taylor of Duran Duran, who Abair has performed with in the past.
Produced by Abair’s musical partner Matthew Hager, the CD features drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., keys man Ricky Peterson, cellist Richard Dodd, bassist Shawn Davis and background singers Charlean Carmon, Dee Dee Foster and Kenya Hathaway.