Category Archives: Guest Post

Mindi Abair: The Power of Reinvention

MindiAbairI’ve been given a beautiful and meaningful gift. One that allows me to make a living as a solo artist. I mean, what could be better than that? I actually get to make records, tour with a band that I’ve hand chosen and play the music I write for audiences all over the world. I’ve been a goal-oriented person my whole life, and seven solo records and countless tours later, I’m still going strong!

But once I turned 40, things started to feel different for me. I started becoming confused and a bit foggy. I was disoriented just “marking time” as they say. Continuing on the same path that I had originally set for myself. It felt as if I had been exposed to a virus that was somehow making me question my place in life. All of the usual things that had inspired me up to this point were gradually fading away and I felt as if I had musically become a caricature of myself. I needed new inspiration, but wasn’t sure where to find it. I needed outside influence, but wasn’t sure how to go after that either. I was just too cozy and safe inside of my own private bubble.

I decided that now was the time to do a little soul searching. But, how does one go about reinventing themselves after living life as a very defined person? I knew that I had to follow my heart. If there was more out there for me, then I was going to go out and find it.

I came to the conclusion that on the off time from my band, I’d go out and do the things that made me happy. I felt the need to become a fan of music again and not just be immersed in playing it. I soon found myself going out to clubs to see bands that I really loved.

After a few months, it occurred to me that I was mostly seeing rock and blues bands. Hmm, OK… note to self. Maybe I was now just tapping into some happy childhood memories. After all, I did spend twelve years growing up hanging with the eight rock bands my dad had put out on the road. And in between those rock tours, I would watch unearthly amounts of MTV. Not exactly what you would consider the usual path to a career in Contemporary Jazz.

One of the shows I was frequenting was my friend, Waddy Watchel’s band. Waddy and I have played together off and on since 1995 – going back to when we both joined Adam Sandler’s band. Waddy’ s band has played The Joint in Hollywood for the past 15 years; with everyone from Keith Richards and Neil Young’s bass player Rick Rosas to Jack Tempchin sitting in.

It became total Rock ‘n’ Roll Zen for me. The loud guitars, the driving force of the drums and the sheer intent of the lead singer! It was a “spa day” for me, as I put it to Waddy. Somehow in the cacophony of rock ‘n’ roll, I had found peace and reveled in the sheer abandon of the music that was being played.

Of course, I couldn’t just watch. Playing was in my blood and those nights of being a fan eventually led to me sitting in with the band and becoming a regular fixture with the group. The music that we were playing really inspired me: Rolling Stones, Mott the Hoople, the Beatles! I was officially “moonlighting” from my chosen career as a Contemporary Jazz saxophonist – and I loved it!

It wasn’t long before I got a call from Don Was asking me if I’d like to play “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” on American Idol with one of the contestants. I knew that I could use my newly found mojo to pull it off. And I did! Steven Tyler even called me out in front of millions on TV saying “Forget about you, who’s your sax player?”

I ended up spending two seasons on American Idol, eventually playing seven episodes with Phillip Phillips who won it all. What an honor!  And on my last day on the set, I received a call from Steven asking if I’d like to be the first saxophonist to join Aerosmith on tour since 1973!

Wow! Now I was REALLY moonlighting! I had decided to just do what made me happy and in the spirit of reinvention was now taking off and spending my summer vacation with Aerosmith!

The band was nice enough to let me keep my own dates that were already booked, so every now and then I would take off and join my own band and play. Interestingly, it was during my own band’s shows that I started feeling a change in the music. I began to notice that I was moving around and playing differently. I was even starting to dress differently. But it wasn’t as if someone else was coming out of my body. It was still me, only a better me! A stronger, more confident and more inspired me!

My next inspiration came to me quite organically. It was the day that I heard of Clarence Clemons passing. I had never met him, but he was a hero of mine as a performer and player. Saddened by his passing, I turned to Facebook as my vehicle for expressing my feelings. As fate would have it, a promoter saw my post and called almost immediately to ask if I’d be up for sitting in with Max Weinberg and paying tribute to Clarence with him. And truly, I could not have been more honored.

A few days later, I played with Max and it was an emotional night. I really tried to dig deep and pay appropriate tribute to this man that I so admired. I ended up joining Max on tour for the next few weeks, even getting to play with him and Bruce Springsteen at the Beacon Theater one lucky night.

Sinking my teeth into this incredible new mojo, I pushed myself into finding greater depths of expression. It was freeing and for the first time in many years I actually wanted to ‘practice’ saxophone. I sat for hours in my room, dusting off old Springsteen records and playing along – forming scales and new melodies in my head. I had found a new love affair with my saxophone and went through a true rebirth as a player. It was work, but I loved every second.

I realized that all of these experiences had helped redefine me. The thoughts that had been haunting me were gone and I was now on to another chapter in my life. One with new goals I was ready to reach for, and with even more abandon than my previous ones! I eagerly took the inspiration that was given me and ran with it — all the way back to my record label, Concord Records. I explained the last few years of my life to them and even played them some of the new music I was writing. I explained why this would make a breakthrough record for me as an artist. They were in, and I soon set out to make a career record for myself.

I was joined by people I never dreamed would play with me on one of my records: Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Keb’ Mo’, Booker T. Jones, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and Trombone Shorty. I had played for them all in their world… moonlighting… and now, I understood for the first time how they fit into mine.

“Wild Heart” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts.

I’m not sure how many times one has the power to redefine and/or reinvent oneself. I’ll have to wait and see but right now I’m reveling in my new skin. Change comes when you look for it. And even though I wasn’t sure of where it would lead, I just needed to free my mind and take the journey. I’m a new woman now. A stronger, more capable woman and someone who’s making music that moves me every single day.

*****

Mindi Abair is one of the most dynamic performers on the music scene today. In addition to her acclaimed solo work, she was the featured saxophonist on the two seasons of American Idol, jammed with Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. More recently, the powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist received a Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot. Abair’s new album, “Wild Heart” includes guest and songwriting performances by Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, Trombone Shorty, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and others. Find out more at www.mindiabair.com

Guest Post: Jimi Jamison’s “Never Too Late” Review

Today we do a little something different on goJimmygo. Jim and I, Kat from Kat’s Theory of Music, thought it would be a kick to both review the same album, but guest post on each other’s blog. We have been anticipating the release and have been pushing each other to do the review. In the end we decided to both do it. The CD to be reviewed is “Never Too Late” by Jimi Jamison.

Jimi Jamison, is best known as the frontman of Survivor, Cobra and Target, as well as a veteran solo artist. This latest album, released through Frontiers Records, was written expressly for him by Swedish wunderkind Erik Martensson. As a member of the European groups Eclipse and W.E.T., Martensson has gained a reputation as the go-to guy when you want your record to be well written, well produced and basically, well done.

Full disclosure: Jim and I are both fans of Jamison and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting him on more than one occasion. If this album was really bad…well I don’t think either of us would be writing the review. But it’s good, real good. I haven’t read a bad review of it. With that being said, it’s still fun to break it down track by track. Since Jim is a musician, his take on it will be different from what I absorb as a writer/music lover only. So read my review, then jump over to my blog and read Jim’s.

Here we go:

Everybody’s Got A Broken Heart: Bang…right out of the gate. Great tempo. Martensson has created a huge wall of sound. After listening to the album a few times, the one word I feel defines his producing technique is precision. Clean, clearly defined producing…it seems every note, every riff is thought through. This opening track is well put together, the vocal suits Jamison to a tee. It would be hard to find a reason not to like this song or why it’s not in the running to be released as a single down the road.

The Great Unknown: The opening notes of this song remind me a bit of Survivor’s “Can’t Give It Up.” But then Jamison voice explodes into all grit and fire…time to catch a ride. I’ve always enjoyed listening to how he interprets a vocal…this is a really nice example. The song itself has a great hook, from start to the real fun ending, it’s all good.

Never Too Late: Ultimate uplifting song. Caution: you will have the chorus in your head all day. Along with a great video, it has a great vocal, great hook, it’s just an overall spot-on balance of vocal and music production. Good choice as a first release, as it’s easily the most commercially viable song on the album. Has everything a hit should have…getting airplay is another thing.

Can’t Turn Back: If this was the 80’s, this song would be blaring out of radio stations non-stop. In this, Martensson has written a song for Jamison that plays to his strong suit…a ballad where he bounces between power vocal and marked restraint. Great haunting fadeout to the song.

Street Survivor: An electronic start into a rock anthem. It’s an interesting insertion to the CD. The rest of the album focuses mainly on the love found/love lost theme, with a few inspirational tracks thrown in, and I guess this might fit into the inspiration group, but it gives me the feel of one of Survivor’s finer songs, “Rebel Son.” The feeling of doing what you need to take on the world. A gutsy and strong rocker.

The Air That I Breathe: More of a traditional ballad, it starts with a easy feel and clear vocal before letting Jimi’s vocal chops shine through. Former Survivor bandmate Jim Peterik once commented about Jamison’s range when he’s really zoned in. He called it the Jamison yodel. As he hits some of the notes in “The Air I Breathe”, you can hear the yodel in full force. A real nice ballad.

Not Tonight: “Someday I might miss you, but not tonight.” Yeah, so who wasn’t felt that way. An underlying infusion of pop, but you can’t beat the chorus. The only issue I have on the album’s production is the backing vocals on this track. And honestly, that’s a little picky. The second half of the song sees the backing vocals become a little heavy handed. That being said, it’s still one of my favorite songs on the album.

Calling the Game: Although I’m sure it was his intent, but the writer in me hears a few too many clichés in Martensson’s lyrics. Musically, the song works. It’s well paced, catchy and Jamison’s vocal brings it all together.

Bullet in the Gun: Beginning with a beautiful piano intro, it quickly jump starts into full rocker mode. Interesting reverb ending creates and eerie fadeout….really well done.

Heaven Call Your Name: Haunting is the only word I can use to describe this. Jamison fully interprets the pain of loss. The stripped down organ intro only fuels the desperation of the lyrics. The kind of song where after you hear it you think…whoa. The use of Jamison’s younger daughter on background vocals adds to the ethereal quality; adding a female voice really provides the perfect sensitivity.

Walk On (Wildest Dreams): No doubt right from the start, this one is gonna punch it out. It finishes off the album repeating the theme of reaching for more in your life. A strong end to what is one fine album. As a whole, there isn’t a bad track on the album. Everything that was promised by having Erik Martensson command the project, was delivered. There is a reason he works non-stop on successful projects, one after another…he’s that good. To write an entire album where the material so acutely matches the singers’ ability is not an easy thing to do. To further produce and play most of the instruments, and not lose sight of the big picture is brilliant.

But aside from having good material and an intuitive producer, you still need the guy to deliver the goods. After all these years, Jimi Jamison is still at the top of his game. The voice has naturally morphed into a richer tone. And while he can still hit the high notes, as a singer he has learned that phrasing and reserve creates a much more solid and interesting vocal. In other words, he still rocks and rocks hard. If melodic rock is your passion, give in to the desire and buy the album. It’s exciting as all hell.

For Jim’s review, go to Kat’s Theory of Music

Guest Post: Why I Admire My Mom

My daughter Jillian, a ten year old aspiring writer herself, penned today’s post. Enjoy!

“Sweetheart, breakfast  is ready!” Mom would call from downstairs. “Be there in a second!” I would say. My mom is a great cook that’s why I admire her! My magnificent mom is lovable, glamorous, and helps me tell the truth!

My snugly bunny is very lovable! If I’m ever scared or sad she’ll snuggle with me and of course that makes me feel better! If were ever watching a scary movie, I’ll hide in her arms or under the blanket  and she’ll say “Why are you so scared?” I’ll try to tell her the reason and she’ll snuggle! She will always say sorry. Sometimes my mother and I play tickle monster/ fight. If she accidentally hurt me she’ll feel really bad and say sorry, I would never say I didn’t forgive her.

My mom is nice to everyone she meets, if somebody needs help she’ll offer to, once a person lost their dog by it running up the street. My mom saw the dog while she was driving and she slammed on the breaks and got the dog, put it in the car and drove away to its owner. The owner was so happy that my mom caught the dog! My mom was so proud!

Cameras the lights THE fashion! My mom is glamorous, she is like America’s Next Top Model, and she always matches! OH NO there’s green and brown, that doesn’t match, black and green (The perfect match) “Black goes with everything!” she says! When me and my mom are in a hurry or late for the bus, she always makes things match. Once it was 7:05 and she still needed to take a shower. She got a shower, dried her hair, put her make up on, and made the most nicest outfit. It was a nice pretty pink flower shirt with white Capri jeans and some nice sandals! My mom always picks the best style…EVERYDAY! She always has something to touch it up! I love her sense of style.

My mom influences me to stand strong settle arguments and be strong willed! One day when me and my mom went to the park, a bully came up and said “Hey give me your snack!” I ignored him and walked away!  Sometimes when somebody is being mean to me or my friend I’ll stand strong stick up for my friend and I will kill the bully with niceness. That’s what my mom told me to do. She settles my arguments.

“Well Mommy has to go to work now. Time to get in your pen”, she would say.  I put on my best sad face and walk in.  Sure I’m sad but I’ll see her when she comes home. I may live a dogs life, but I still admire my mom.

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