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Life Less Ordinary

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Album Review

Mindi Abair has been a force in pop and jazz since she moved to Los Angeles. When she signed to GRP she really made her mark as a solo artist. Life Less Ordinary is her fourth recording under her own name since 1999. She has toured tirelessly, played on dozens of sessions, and been a regular on smooth jazz radio and pop stations. Life Less Ordinary is the most diverse things she's issued. There's the taut, sheeny groove jazz she's become famous for on the funky opener "Do You Miss Me," with a vocal chorus and trippy keyboards and programming by producer Michael Hager. "Long Ride Home" is the album's standout track. One can plainly hear the influence of David Sanborn, Tom Scott, and Michael Brecker on her playing. It's a simple vamp that gives way to a slippery chorus. It's more a song than a jazz jam. The piece is tightly composed and arranged, and its groove is undeniable — especially in the multi-tracked saxophones. The album's first surprise happens in her cover of Rickie Lee Jones' "It Must Be Love," from her Magazine album. Abair's treatment makes it sound like it came off a slick Nashville country version of Ghostyhead! With programmed loops by Hager, very hushed and nocturnal. Abair apes Jones' vocal — including her phrasing — but she doesn't have the voice and sounds flat. Michael Landau's guitar playing is utterly tasteful and beautiful and Keb Mo's brief dobro solo are the strongest parts of the cut, though Lalah Hathaway's backing vocals are fine as well and steal the show from Abair. "The Joint" is solid; a tough, blues-influenced groove which, with muddier production, could have appeared on a Blue Note soul-jazz record from the late '60s, or one of the Crusaders early sides with Larry Carlton. "Slinky"'s fractured, slow, sexy funk is in-the-pocket and backbone-slipping. "Ordinary Love," along with the Jones' tune — both attempts at singles — is simply awful. The melody, with its Latin undertones, is nowhere, and the vocal would be forgettable if it weren't so in-your-face bad. "Bloom" should have been the album's closer with its infectious, sing-able lyricism and its euphoric choruses and bridge, but the semi-orchestral "Far Away" (not Carole King's tune) gets that honor, and it's a fine piece of new age jazz if that's what moves you. In all, there are great moments here. Abair has a great funky jazz record in her somewhere, but she, her manager, or her producers need to reign her in. She is aware of her strengths, it seems, but not her weaknesses.


Born: 31 May 1969 in St. Petersburg, FL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Born on tour into a musical family, Mindi Abair was playing piano by the age of five. Within three years, she was playing saxophone and writing songs. She made her way through Berklee performing all kinds of music from jazz to rock and R&B. Upon moving back to Los Angeles, Abair started her own band. She also took on session work with artists as diverse as the Gap Band, Adam Sandler, Mandy Moore, John Tesh, Teena Marie, and the Backstreet Boys. During this time, she worked on creating her own sound...
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Life Less Ordinary, Mindi Abair
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