Contemporary Jazz

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Abair's Stereo At WaveFest

28 MAY 10 JONATHAN WIDRAN

The two standout songs saxophonist Mindi Abair played during her all-too-brief opening set at the 2010 Mercedes-Benz WaveFest at the Greek Theatre May 14 keyed the crowd in on the contrast between her past successes and the deeper, more soulful places she explores on her Heads Up debut In Hi-Fi Stereo.

Before the encore, her delightfully peppy #1 trademark airplay hit "Lucy's," she brought out her old college friend Lalah Hathaway for a searing run through James Brown's "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World," the lone cover among 10 robustly played, deeply felt originals on the new collection. Fans of "Lucy's" and similarly lighthearted hits like "True Blue" and "Bloom" get a deeper glimpse into her soul inspiration as she goes organic and intentionally "non-poppy, non-smooth" with players who've been in the groove trenches: 71-year-old James Gadson, one of the most recorded drummers in R&B history; bassist Reggie McBride (Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, P-Funk); guitarist Randy Jacobs (B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. Dre, Seal); and Cassandra O'Neal, who has worked her B-3 magic for Macy Gray and Mary J. Blige.

The shift began when, seeking inspiration for the follow-up to her pop and singer/songwriter oriented Stars, Abair discovered a treasure trove of classics at the studio of her friend, songwriter/producer Wayne Rodrigues, She noticed that the covers of all the '60s and '70s LPs she was listening to -- by Ramsey Lewis, Eddie Harris, Al Green, King Curtis, Archie Bell & The Drells, etc. -- had the same stamp: In Hi-Fi Stereo.

in this playlist.