Performer Mindi Abair has music in her bones. The multi-talented musician, who balances voice and saxophone as her main instruments of choice, grew up on the road with her dad’s band, The Entertainers.When she turned 5 and the tour ended, she started taking piano lessons, followed by sax lessons three years later. Her grandmother was an opera singer, and she and Abair would sit at the piano singing arias together.
“It was a very musical existence growing up,” Abair said fondly.
The musician has gone on to have a successful and exciting career: She has made 11 solo albums, received two GRAMMY nominations, and won eight Independent Blues Music Awards last year, including Artist of the Year. Highlights have included being the featured saxophonist on American Idol in 2011 and 2012 and joining Aerosmith as their first sax player since 1973.
On Sept. 20, Abair will perform at the annual In Concert for Cancer (ICFC) event at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center, joined by longtime collaborators The Boneshakers and co-founder of Heart Roger Fisher. We spoke to Abair to learn more about her connection to ICFC — an organization that donates 100 percent of each concert’s net proceeds to cancer research and patient programs — and her career as a performer.
How did you come to be involved with In Concert for Cancer?
I performed at the first In Concert for Cancer fundraiser set on an aircraft carrier in San Diego. It was an epic night. Michele Abrams, who started this, has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She works tirelessly to put on incredible events for a beautiful cause. We’ve stayed in touch and become friends over the years. I have so much respect for what she spends her life doing. I’m so happy I can be a part of it this year.
Do you have a personal connection with cancer?
I have so many people who are close to me that have dealt with cancer that it’s hard to know where to start. My best friend growing up lost her husband to cancer a few years ago. It struck him when he was 31 years old and he fought it for years. One of my closest friends and writing partners is hand in hand with his wife as she battles breast cancer right now. My neighbor and my father beat prostate cancer. My father also has survived bladder cancer and skin cancer.
Tell us about your new album, No Good Deed. Can we expect to hear songs from it at ICFC?
No Good Deed is a deep record for me. I feel like we (Abair and The Boneshakers) explored so much of our influences together as a band, and really let them all show in a beautiful way. There is a cover of The Rascals 1964 song “You Better Run” . . . and there are a few ballads on the album that I penned that are incredibly personal and introspective. This album is rock, blues, soul, and I have to say that it’s the most fun album to play live. We’ll definitely be working a few of these songs into the set for ICFC!
Is the ICFC benefit a part of a larger tour that you’re doing?
We’re on the road solid from now until the end of time basically. We are a live band and that’s where we shine and that’s what we love to do: Play live. We’ll be back in Seattle at Jazz Alley for all of Valentine’s Week in February 2020. We’ve played there every year for 15+ years. We love it there. Rhat’s where we recorded our first album Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers Live in Seattle.
What do you hope to get out of the concert? Do you anticipate it feeling different than other concerts you have performed?
In Concert for Cancer is always different than any other events or concerts we play. Music is bigger than just the songs we write or (having) fun playing. Music can change the world: the way a song makes you feel, or how it can influence you to get behind something that is a very worthy cause. What Michele and her charity do and how she and the doctors and people who she works with (change) people’s lives for the better (is so important). It’s inspiring (that) we can all be a part of this change.
The 8thAnnual In Concert for Cancer Benefit will be on Friday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Meydenbauer Center Theatre. For concert details and to purchase tickets, visit www.InConcertforCancer.org