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The new standard of jazzPremium Blend contributes to the ever-evolving genre

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Some jazz bands are stereotyped as a group of musically-seasoned older men on a cramped stage in a smoky club; filled to the brim with band followers and others who forgot it was jazz night but decided to stay and enjoy the music.

Erase that image from your mind. Premium Blend, formed by tenor and alto saxophone player Jared Thompson, defies musical stereotypes and contributes an unmistakable quality to the ever-evolving sound of jazz music.

“Jazz isn’t just for old Baby-Boomers. It’s got a nice sound that everyone can enjoy, understand and follow,” said Thompson.

Thompson, a North Central High School grad, has been musically inclined since early childhood. His musical origins were on the piano, however he quickly traded that in for a saxophone. When learning music, Thompson was captivated by the excitement, dynamics and energy of the sound created by other musicians.

Most 20-year-olds gravitate towards other forms of music, however, the history of the music and noted jazz musicians helped Thompson further hone his sound.

“Jazz is more mature, challenging… more complex. There’s an actual science to it. You have to have real talent. With jazz, it’s very intricate, precise and more of a challenge, to me, listening to it and performing it,” said Thompson.

After graduating from Ohio liberal arts college Denison University, Thompson casually began building a band. Drummer, Richard “Sleepy” Floyd, and Thompson had already been friends and began collaborating on music opportunities. Floyd suggested bassist Brandon Meeks join their duo. Premium Blend was complete once piano player Steven Jones was added to the group. Occasionally, Thompson’s twin brother Joshua will play with the band.

Unlike some bands who come together for predominantly business purposes, Jared and his crew share a friendship that appears on stage to create a perfect balance of personal expression and harmonious sound all for the common goal – an expressive, fun and spectacular performance.

When attending a Premium Blend performance, audience members can expect hard bop sounds such as Lee Morgan or John Coltrane, combined with the jazz-like hip-hop melodies of Tribe Called Quest mixed with jazz-funk blends of the Herbie Hancock-led jazz group Head Hunters.

Mostly mixing it up at The Chatterbox on Indianapolis’ famed Mass Ave., a typical Premium Blend music show is comprised of a wide variety of people and age groups. The band may begin their set with some jazz standards but by the course of the evening, it has graced audiences with laid back and original songs.

In Premium Blend, each member is a star. Band members contribute to their authentic repertoire of songs and are able to shine individually and as a unit.

Furthermore, Premium Blend gives way to a new expression of jazz by young, vibrant musicians who want to make their own mark on the genre.

Chuck Workman, jazz columnist for Nuvo Newsweekly, says each generation that discovers and loves jazz has the desire to add another layer to the American born form of music, and embrace the fundamentals and very nature of jazz – freedom of expression.

“Jazz reflects social times that are expressed during the music. Today jazz is honoring the forefathers. By doing that, it’s a chance for them to spring off of the mainstream jazz tree for a new branch that offers new sounds,” said Workman.

Like all forms of music, jazz will continue to evolve and Premium Blend is here to bring audiences their interpretation of how jazz should be done. Thompson and the band are looking to expand their musical horizons, but plan to begin in Indianapolis making sure everyone knows their name and expose young audiences to the new elements of jazz.

“It’s always real, ‘come as you are, everybody’s welcome.’ Once you experience that energy, you’re going to want to always be a part of it,” said Thompson.

Happy Sweet 16!

Join the fun as The Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Avenue, celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday. In April of 1994, The Jazz Kitchen opened its doors to provide Indianapolis with the greatest in jazz, cuisine and libations, and has been going strong ever since.

To celebrate this accomplishment and April being Jazz Appreciation Month, the club is offering The Jazz Kitchen’s Jam Pass – any 16 shows for $25. These passes can be purchased at www.thejazzkitchen.com or in person at the club.

Take in some bands you’ve never seen, try out the Thursday Latin Dance Party or check out the famous Dr. Lonnie Smith on April 12.

For more information, call (317) 253-4900.

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