Born in 1969, Abair comes from a musical family: her grandmother was an opera singer, and her father was a touring saxophonist. By age 5 in her St. Petersburg, Florida, home, she started playing piano but soon moved to the saxophone. After a year at a Florida college, she came to Berklee, graduating magna cum laude in woodwind performance in 1991. After moving to Los Angeles, she followed the advice of the late Joe Viola, a Berklee teacher from the Woodwind Department who told her to start her own band. “You’ve got your own sound. Go out and make your own mark.”
Many performances, albums, and other projects ensued. In her album, Wild Heart—for which she received a 2015 Grammy nomination—she explores vintage rock and soul horn sounds from the ‘70s and ‘80s. She’s continued to evolve her sound, joining forces with Randy Jacobs’s Detroit blues band the Boneshakers to add a dose of gritty rock and blues. Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers released a live album in 2015 and a studio album, The EastWest Sessions, in 2017.
Abair has also written a book, How to Play Madison Square Garden: A Guide to Stage Performance; launched a fine jewelry line; served as president of the L.A. chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; and kicked off the Pretty Good for a Girl campaign in celebration of female power.
Throughout her busy career, Abair holds on to her philosophy: “I’m the luckiest person in the world to be surrounded by such talent and true artistry. I don’t care about label or boundaries. “I just want to play and create and keep moving forward.”
Mindi Abair’s career as a saxophonist would be as dizzying as reading the long lists of accolades she has garnered. Having been a saxophonist on American Idol, toured with Aerosmith, appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, played at the Grand Ole Opry, recorded multiple albums, and received several Grammy nominations, Abair is at the top of her game.