On a normal evening, you’ll find Indianapolis saxophonist Jared Thompson and his band Premium Blend at all types of jazz venues around town. Last Saturday however, they played three sets at local hip hop festival Chreece. The Campus Citizen met up with Thompson the next evening to talk about his experience at this diverse and colorful music festival.
Who did you play with at Chreece?
Let’s see. The first set was Sonny Paradise. My band Premium Blend was the backing band for Sonny Paradise, and we were playing tunes off of his latest album “PHARAOHGAMi.” So Ryan Taylor [guitarist of Premium Blend] wasn’t able to make it, he had another gig, so I had my brother, Joshua play trumpet. So it was me, Joshua, Steven Jones, and Brian Yard backing up Sonny Paradise at Square Cat Vinyl, and it was wonderful. The second set I played was at Square Cat as well, with Mariah Ivey. And then the third set I played was with Clint Breeze and the Groove at White Rabbit, and that was at 12:30 a.m. It was packed, it was great, and I didn’t get home until about 3:30 a.m., and I slept all day today. [Laughs] I felt like I earned it.
Did you guys have a good audience reception?
Oh yeah. The thing that I was really appreciative about Square Cat Vinyl was that it was only so big. So it was super packed, but there could only be about 54 to 60 people there at the same time, so it was very close, very intimate. Literally the audience was like a fingernail away from the stage, and that just brought this really cool, great, communal kind of vibe, which is really what Chreece is about to begin with, so it just went over really well.
So was that your first time playing Chreece?
It was. I’d been to Chreece last year, and literally I just happened to be in the area last year. It just gets bigger and better every year. There was no beef, there was no visible stigma of, “Oh, it’s hip-hop, so this kind of behavior is what’s going to happen.” No, it was none of that. It makes me so happy when I see adult males, you know, shake each other’s hands, hug each other, embrace each other and say, “I love you bro.” Just complimenting each other’s existences, and their talents and their energy.
Did you notice a lot of crossover in the jazz community and the hip-hop community?
Tons. The MC for Clint Breeze and the Groove said yesterday that jazz is the uncle of hip-hop, and it really is. So yeah, Premium Blend is a jazz band that was able to be there. Clint and the Groove is made up of all jazz musicians. They relied heavily on us, and that’s nice to have that kind of cross-section happen, because it just opens up everybody’s fan base, and it opens up everybody’s ears to a different kind of music. So it’s always exciting to watch two different groups come together and not compete against each other but to team up to make a better product.
So do you think you would play Chreece again?
Absolutely! You know, and even if I wasn’t involved as a musician next year, I would go, you know, to witness the same things that I was just talking about. And it doesn’t matter what time of the day that you go, you’re gonna find one person’s set that just makes your mouth drop, and that’s always fun.
Did you get to catch any other sets?
I did. I’m trying to think of the names. There was Diop. He has a new record that’s out. He’s a great guy. I don’t know him personally, but I am definitely a fan and a new follower of his music. Pope Adrian Bless was at White Rabbit, and it’s crazy to watch a local icon literally take shape in front of you. I mean, his following is almost cult-like. It’s crazy how much energy and love they give this guy. And he deserves it. On top of that, he’s a great human being. He’s very giving of himself and also giving to the music. The group before Sonny Paradise, Knots Brothers, that was a nice and interesting mix.
How do you feel about Chreece being located in Fountain Square?
It’s cool, but I think that it will have to find some place else to grow. The convenient thing about Fountain Square as it is now is that there are so many local restaurants that are so on board for doing anything community-active. So that’s a great benefit, and everything’s within walking distance and that really serves to make that festival a success. I do see it having to branch out and go elsewhere, in the coming years. And that’s a great thing. Nick Saligoe and Oreo Jones did a great job at organizing Chreece one, two, and three. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of people, and it’s a lot of egos. It’s like herding cats, but they pulled it off without looking flustered. It’s just so impressive that two organizers were able to do something with such a positive outcome from the beginning, to the middle, to the end of the event.
Any final thoughts about Chreece?
I will say this. The newer, contemporary rap, I’m not a fan of. Some may call it “trap,” or whatever. It’s just not me. I’m an ‘80s baby, and a preteen, teen of the ‘90s, so I’m used to what they call now “boom-bap,” you know, that traditional stuff with instruments behind it, so that’s what my ear normally gravitates towards. What this event did, though, was it brought all the different evolutions of hip hop into one space and it worked. I found myself listening to “trap” music, and I thought, “Well this is kind of cool.” [Laughs] I mean, I’m not going to go out and buy this stuff. I’m not going to keep listening to it. But what this is right now, I really appreciate it, and this works. I see why people like it.