The EastWest Sessions
Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers
2017 / Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers
Review by Michael Debbage
Being somewhat familiar with the smooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair it was intriguing to see her collaborate with the straight up R&B band The Boneshakers who released their own album a few decades ago. This is only intensified knowing that Kevin Shirley is the producer, who is renowned in the rock genre giving all indications this was not going to be your typical smooth jazz outing. One listen to this album makes this assessment spot on as Mindi Abair “plays pretty good for a rocker” (pun intended).
Loaded in straight ahead R&B that is infused with elements of rock, blues, smooth jazz and even gospel, The EastWest Sessions album has a very raw live feel to it with the attitude up and a party atmosphere going down. While Abair’s strong saxophone is up front and center she does not hesitate to allow The Boneshakers to let loose along with a few surprise musical guests. First up is the blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa who rocks out with Abair and the band on the mid tempo cheeky “Pretty Good For A Girl”. This is followed up with former Was Not (Was) vocalist Sweet Pee Atkinson singing lead on the slower swinging “Let Me Hear It From You” that has almost a gospel feel to it.
However, The EastWest Sessions is not about Abair hiding behind guest artists as clearly this musician can wail on the saxophone only to add her expressive vocals best heard on the opening track “Vinyl”. Frankly this opener sets up the tone for the entire album placing you on immediate notice that Mindi and The Boneshakers have something to say as they groove right into the follow up track “Not That Kind Of Girl”. And of the eleven tracks seven are co-written by her while the playful closer “I Love To Play The Saxophone” she is given sole credit.
This is not Abair’s first effort at breaking away from her smooth jazz mold as apparently the 2014 release Wild Heart showed elements of her transitioning. While Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers have already recorded the live album Live In Seattle this is their first studio collaboration. However its raw unified live feel makes The EastWest Sessions a very impressive recording. Oozing with attitude this striking saxophonist and band clearly have all the right chops that it will be interesting to watch their musical future.
January 6, 2018