If all you’ve heard from Mindi Abair is what’s played on smooth-jazz radio, you’ve probably got her pegged as a Sanborn-style saxophonist who offers bright and catchy songs. As a singer she’s written and performed several girl-power-type ballads that are no worse than anything you might hear on your preferred soft-rock station. But Abair has also revealed a not-so-smooth edge. On In Hi Fi Stereo, her sixth CD, that edge is sharper than ever.
The CD’s title speaks to Abair’s grittier early influences. Although just barely past 40, Abair’s roots run solid through the ’60s and early ’70s, and it’s this golden age of soul, funk and R&B that she set her sights on. Co-produced by Abair and smooth-R&B go-to guy Rex Rideout, In Hi Fi Stereo pumps out a giddy mix of sax and sassiness, 10 originals and one cover, the latter an in-your-face exercise between Abair and vocalist Lalah Hathaway on “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
“All Star” has a Ramsey Lewis flair and Abair’s impressive horn arrangements, while the after-the-party vibe of “L’Espirit Nouveau” is a bluesy shout-out to Allen Toussaint. “Get Right,” with Ryan Collins’ vocals, is an upbeat about-face compared to Abair’s own well of light-ish vocal tunes. Even “Let the Whole World Know (Sing Your Song)” throws some nastiness into its bright melodic structure.