On Stage

Jazz at the Merc Looks to the Future

It’s been eight years since the popular weekly series, Jazz at the Merc, debuted in Old Town. Creator, musical powerhouse and Temecula resident, Sherry Williams, looks back fondly on the inception of what has become a local entertainment favorite.

“I knew there was an audience for this music, based on a gig I had every Thursday at the Temecula Creek Inn,” Williams said during a recent interview. “My trio and I packed the place each week. All were lovers of the Great American Songbook and some were serious jazz aficionados.”

Since it began, the Jazz at the Merc series has hosted dozens of the finest jazz musicians in the intimate 48-seat setting of The Merc; giving the audience a truly interactive experience. Though the venue hosts numerous series’ in various genres such as classical and country, Williams describes what is truly unique about the music she holds dear.

“Real jazz is participatory and it is improvisational and one is taken on a journey of exploration and storytelling along with the musicians,” she said. “It can be a gentle ride or a tumultuous ride. It depends on the players and the style of jazz they are playing. But whatever the case, you don’t just listen and zone out.”

In live jazz, no two concerts are ever the same due to the choices made by the musician at the time.

“Jazz has similarities to classical music in that improvisation is variations on a theme,” Williams said. “Those improvisations happen in the moment, on the spot. The creating is happening right before your eyes and ears. That’s part of what makes jazz so special.”

Jazz at the Merc takes place every Thursday evening at 7:30 pm. The August 7th show features the Judy Wexler Quartet.

“The Judy Wexler Quartet is very busy in the LA area and some of the patrons requested she come back to the Merc,” Williams said. “I have known Judy a long time and have watched her grow as a singer. We are both big fans of the late Jack Segal, who wrote the standard, ‘When Sunny Gets Blue.’  No doubt she’ll be doing some of his material.”

Cheryl Bentyne with John Proulx will take the stage on August 14th.

“Cheryl Bentyne is a multi-Grammy winner,” Williams said. “She was in and still sings with the Manhattan Transfer. She’s coming to the Merc with the marvelous pianist/singer/arranger John Proulx. This will be real treat.”

As she looks to the future, Williams anticipates much growth in the series and hopes to bring in larger Latin Jazz bands and concert big bands, like Kim Richard’s Concert Jazz Band. She is confident the support she has received from the community will provide the opportunity to make Jazz at the Merc bigger and better than ever.

“What I didn’t expect [at the beginning] was the generosity of the patrons. Many of them have donated both money and time to make this series a truly special experience,” Williams said.

For the Jazz at the Merc performance schedule, go to temeculatheater.org or stay tuned to What’s Up? Temecula for the up-to-date schedule and information.

Jazz at the Merc

Every Thursday at 7:30 pm
The Merc at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater

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Holly Herndon

Holly Herndon

Holly has been covering arts & entertainment in the Temecula Valley for as long as she has been a part of the community. She loves San Diego sports almost as much as she loves her family.

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