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Three albums ago - in 1989 - the Minnesota-based rhythm and blues band Mint Condition was just a group of high school friends who liked to play music.

"We played backup for different singers who came through the Twin Cities," key-boardist Keri Lewis told the Deseret News during a phone call from Los Angeles. "A vibe caught on and we looked around and said, `Let's put our own thing together.' "Mint Condition - featuring Lewis, percussionist/vocalist Stokley, keyboardists Larry Waddell and Jeff Allen, upright bassist Ricky Kinchen and guitarist O'Dell - will serve as the opening act to the Toni Braxton/Kenny G. concert at the Delta Center Sunday, Jan. 5. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

The group, said Lewis, doesn't really rely on vocals to carry the show, although there are some tunes with rich soulful harmonies.

"We consider ourselves instrumentalists," he said. "The singing is really a secondary thing."

Lewis said he and the others grew up in St. Paul listening to their parents' jazz albums.

"We were surrounded by music when we were young," he explained. "As we grew up we got into a mix of old R&B and jazz like Stevie Wonder, Luther Van-dross, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and the Jackson 5."

Mint Condition's new album, "Definition of a Band," has yielded a single, "What Kind of Man Would I Be," that hit No. 13 on Billboard magaznine's pop chart. "We are basically Toni's backup band," Lewis said. "But she's going to be doing a few wardrobe changes, and that's when we'll be doing some of our own tunes. We're trying to get that Big Band live sound like those groups in the past."

Success has come in waves for Mint Condition, said Lewis.

The band's debut album, "Meant to Be Mint," launched a No. 1 rhythm and blues single called "Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)." The follow-up album, "From the Mint," won critic raves.

Last week, before their L.A. gig, the group was honored by the mayor of Compton and given the keys to the city.

"Things are going well for us," Lewis said. "And we're happy to be where we are."

For those who have been in the dark for the last couple of years, Toni Braxton, also known as "the First Lady of LaFace Records," is one of the hottest singers in the country. Her 1993 self-titled multi-platinum debut album, which featured the hits "Breathe Again," "You Mean the World to Me" and "I Belong to You," earned her three Grammy Awards (including Best New Artist), three American Music Awards and two Soul Train Awards.

Her new album, "Secrets," adds to her success. The suggestive single "You're Makin' Me High" and the ballad "Unbreak My Heart" are currently on heavy rotation on VH1 and MTV.

After 11 weeks on the charts, Kenny G.'s new album, "The Moment," has sold more than 2 million copies. The album also rests at the No. 1 spot on the Contemporary Jazz charts.

The concert isn't the first time the jazz artist and singer have worked together. Braxton was a guest on G.'s new album on the track "That Somebody Was You." Likewise Braxton's new single, "How Can an Angel Break My Heart," features the sax of G.