Indianapolis Preparing for 18th Annual Jazz Festival

Come to Indy Jazz Fest’s Block Party and listen to the rich, smoky chords dance from the guitars. Pull up a seat for a nice dinner at the Jazz Kitchen and enjoy the beautiful piano melodies floating through the house. Come for the sounds, the culture or the atmospheric fixtures—Indy Jazz Fest has something for all music lovers.

According to the event’s official website, Indy Jazz Fest is 10 days of concerts, master classes and panel discussions. Starting in 1999, Indy Jazz Fest brings history, music and education to locals and those just passing through. A yearlong project of the not-for-profit Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, Indy Jazz Fest supports all organizations that promote education and awareness of jazz music and musicians.

Jazz guitarist Charlie Ballantine of The Charlie Ballantine Group will be one of those musicians playing at the event.

After being offered the opportunity to play two sets at Indy Jazz Fest this year, Ballantine began thinking of what he might play for this diverse audience. With influences that span from jazz, folk, rock and blues, he considers his genre to be “folk fusion.”

Charlie Ballantine and Amanda Gardier playing a set at Coal Yard Coffee in Irvington

Charlie Ballantine and Amanda Gardier playing a set at Coal Yard Coffee in Irvington

“I think everyone kind of assumes they’re going to hear some Nat King Cole style jazz,” he said, “but I like to think I have just as much Jimi Hendrix in my sound as I do Wes Montgomery or Miles Davis. It’s hard to explain because in my head it’s a culmination of thousands of things I’ve listened to.”

Ballantine is excited to hear many of the bands and artists playing at Indy Jazz Fest this year, noting Charlie Hunter, Ghost-Note, and local band The Tucker Brothers at the top of his list.

Another artist Ballantine is looking forward to seeing perform is Jared Thompson and his band Premium Blend. Thompson, one of Indy’s star saxophone players, considers his writing style as a mix between traditional bebop, hip-hop, and R&B.

Like Ballantine’s band, Thompson’s band will be playing at the Block Party event. As much as Thompson is looking forward to playing at the event, he is also just as excited to see some of his local musician friends perform live.

“We don’t get to see each other play out a lot because we’re all performing,” Thompson said. “So at least for one day out of the year, we all get to be at each other’s gig and able to support each other and just hang out.”

For Thompson’s set at Block Party, he will be playing a lot of the songs from his new album The Road. Thompson and his guitar player, Ryan Taylor, have also written some new material to introduce to fans.

Premium Blend poster courtesy of Facebook

Premium Blend poster courtesy of Facebook

“Ryan [Taylor] and I are like the perfect left and right hand,” Thompson said. “With the way that I write, he’ll come up with another song that completely contrasts but complements what I’ve got.”

Thompson’s major influences range from saxophonists John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Joshua Redman, to artists like singer/songwriter Erykah Badu.

“From the moment I first saw Erykah Badu, I wanted to marry her,” Thompson laughed. “I just love her, and she has been a big musical influence on me as well.”

Thompson is also looking forward to seeing many of the performers at Indy Jazz Fest including R&B singer Chatae Caan, The Tucker Brothers, and, naturally, The Charlie Ballantine Band.

The Charlie Ballantine Group, which also features smooth and sultry saxophonist Amanda Gardier, will play on Tuesday Sept. 19 at the Jazz Kitchen. Both Ballantine and Thompson will play at the Block Party celebration on Saturday Sept. 24.