Abair to launch album at jazz fest

Mindi Abair has a party coming up this weekend in Newport Beach — and she'd like her guests to take home a lot of party favors.

The saxophonist, who has had five releases in Billboard's top 10 jazz albums chart, will throw a launch party for her latest effort, "Wild Heart," on the opening night of this year's Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival. Her hope with the new disc, which officially came out Tuesday, is to hit that coveted top slot.

"We want everyone to buy two because I'd love to be No. 1 this week," Abair said by phone Thursday.

For the release party, she's invited label executives and musicians who played on the album; multi-instrumentalist Booker T. and singer Elliot Yamin will join her onstage. It will be the record's debut, but not Abair's first time at the Newport festival — she's lost count of how many times she's played there over the years.

Abair won't be the only jazz institution appearing at this year's festival, as Chaka Khan and Dave Koz will headline while Brian McKnight, Bobby Caldwell, the Derek Bordeaux Group and others will fill out the lineup.

Heather Humphries, the Hyatt's director of sales and marketing, said the Newport festival serves as a kick-off of sorts before other similar events, such as the Long Beach Jazz Festival, held later in the summer. In a typical year, she added, the festival brings about 10,000 patrons to the hotel.

"It's definitely one of the biggest events Newport Beach has," Humphries said.

She noted that this year's festival will mark the first since the Hyatt underwent a $15-million renovation, upgrading guest rooms and pools, adding a new children's water area and introducing the SHOR American Seafood Grill.

Abair, who lives in Hollywood, is eager to make Newport the site of her album launch. "Wild Heart," released on the Heads Up label, features guests ranging from E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg to guitarist Gregg Allman and blues musician Keb' Mo'.

"What a great spot," Abair said. "I always look forward to playing it for so many reasons. Obviously, the history is great for me. It's one of the first places that I came into my own as a sideman and solo artist and started gaining my own audience.

"But I just love it here. It's beautiful. There's little bunny rabbits hopping around in the bushes, and you're right there by the water. What could go wrong?"

If You Go

What: Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival

Where: Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, 1107 Jamboree Road

When: CD release party for Mindi Abair at 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cost: $60 general admission for either Saturday or Sunday; $100 for two-day general admission pass; $130 VIP seating for either Saturday or Sunday; $220 for two-day VIP pass; Friday night CD release party only available as part of $310 three-day package

Information: (949) 360-7800 or http://www.festivals.hyattconcerts.com

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