The Mercantile is an intimate and rustic space for music and arts in Old Town Temecula, boasting regular jazz performance on Thursday nights. The Merc, located on 42051 Main St., is an historic building, restored as a small, acoustically oriented music venue. Singer Sherry Williams warmly hosts these evenings, inviting the listener to experience with her the love of jazz music.
When you enter The Merc, you walk into an art gallery that also houses the box office window. Seating is around café and bistro tables where 60 or so people are very close to the musicians. The crowd for “straight ahead jazz” on this night seemed to be populated by a more seasoned group of people with young adult musicians and couples filing the balance.
Like finer wine is with your nose, when jazz is good your ears will know it. Straight ahead jazz of this quality is not that easy to find these days, especially locally in the Temecula area. If you are new to this type of music, this genre of jazz is an interactive experience with musician and listener and normally includes at least a trio—piano, bass guitar and drum set.
Jeff Stover, the host and bassist, put together a quartet with pianist Keith Droste, drummer James Nation, and the trumpeter-singer Stan Watkins who showed both showmanship and virtuosity on his pocket trumpet and flugelhorn. Stover has been seen locally with his big band and Keith Droste has his own quartet and recordings as well.
“S’marvelous” kicked off the night, which was full of standards from the classic jazz fake book such as “Night In Tunisia,” “A-Train,” and a comical version of “Penny’s From Heaven,” with the tongue-in-cheek lyric “Benny’s from heaven.” The crowd warmed up through the night, singing and laughing along with the players and each other.
The venue boasts a recently acquired antique Steinway grand piano, which was masterfully utilized by Keith Droste. Droste composed the one original of the night—“The Samba”—which offered an appropriately placed pause between familiar tunes.
The sound reinforcement at the venue was adequate, and the music was energetic enough to connect to the crowd while not overwhelming the room. The concession stand offered a list of quality wines and a choice of beers by the bottle. No matter your experience level with jazz, the vibe of this type of venue partnered with the interactive performance of talented and seasoned musicians offers something unique to add to your list of Temecula hotspots.