Recorded live at Seattle’s famed Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley during a four-day stand in February 2015, Live In Seattle is a hot and heavy set of blues rock and funky R&B led by saxophonist Mindi Abair. For her first-ever live album, Abair is backed by the muscular sound of guitarist Randy Jacobs’ band, The Boneshakers. You may know Abair as a so-called “smooth jazz” artist, but take note—there’s nothing smooth about the gutbucket blues growls and piercing high shrieks that she routinely coaxes from her alto throughout Live In Seattle. Those with a taste for high-energy, raucous blues will find plenty to love in these 14 tracks.
The set list is made up of Mindi Abair originals, including a spirited take on a tune co-written by Abair and Booker T. Jones (“Make It Happen”), Randy Jacobs originals, and a couple of covers. The Gershwin evergreen “Summertime” is slamming, with aggressive sax lines powered by the Boneshakers’ window-rattling rhythm section: Derek Frank on bass and Third Richardson on drums. James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” is given a uniquely blues-based treatment. The groove is definitely in the pocket, but bolstered by Jacobs’ searing guitar this is version has less funk, more rock.
Some songs on Live In Seattle are sourced from Abair’s 2014 Grammy-nominated (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album) Wild Heart, including the hard-grooving title track. She adds her own capable, if nondescript, vocals to a few choice selections, including the positive-thinking anthem “I Can’t Lose,” which she introduces as a conscious attempt at writing about the highs of life’s winning moments. The production, also courtesy of Abair, definitely conveys a live, spontaneous atmosphere and audience at Jazz Alley seems to have had a grand time.
In the press notes from Concord Music Group (the label distributing Live In Seattle), Abair is quoted as stating, “A record is supposed to be a snapshot of where you are in your life. Well, that’s what this is. It’s a band that I absolutely love playing with, and the audience is as excited as I am every night. That’s what it’s all about.” Indeed. The Boneshakers (also featuring vocals by Sweet Pea Atkinson and keys by Rodney Lee) make a fitting match for Abair’s scorching sax solos. This “snapshot” of where Abair is in her career.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B013BXK62Y]