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Local Jazz Group Serenades Old Town Temecula

Alyssa Brookshire
The Merc in Old Town Temecula

Tucked between the rustic, western-themed architecture of the historic Old Town Temecula and in the shadow of Town Square is The Merc. The Merc is a The Old Town Temecula Community Theater venue and hosts community-wide events like art shows, live music performances, and theater productions. This past Thursday, The Merc welcomed Los Angeles Jazz group Trio WoRK into their intimate concert space for a night filled with blues, bass, and beautiful music.

The dark, dimly lit room was buzzing with anticipation as the band set up on stage. The atmosphere was intensified by the neon glare of The Merc sign reflecting off of the exposed brick of the backroom gallery walls. Jazz lovers and newcomers of all ages surrounded the small circular tables, waiting for their musical experience. The band was introduced as Trio WoRK, which features vocalist Susan Krebs,  guitarist Tom Rizzo, and bassist Ken Wild. This group has been making their unique sound for six years and has released two albums together.

You could feel their energy as soon as the group took the stage. What was special about this show was how involved the audience was with the band and how they connected with the music. This show proved that the audience is an integral part of the performance. This live performance was unique as it featured a plethora of different genres spanning works from Krebs’s one-woman show titled Lunar 1, to the former “The Tonight Shows” guitarist Tom Rizzo’s original instrumentals, and covers of influential jazz tunes traversing eras.

Candlelit Jazz Show (Credit: Cottonbro Studios-Pexels)

Led by Krebs’s powerful and eccentric voice, the show opened with a bluesy rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Exactly Like You.”As the evening unfolded, the audience was treated to diverse musical styles and influences, from the swinging grooves of the bebop era to the smooth melodies of jazz fusion. With each passing tune, the ensemble demonstrated their versatility and skill for improvisation, earning enthusiastic applause from the captivated audience after each number.

After the intermission, we were treated to three Tom Rizzo originals. Fellow bandmate Susan Krebs said Rizzo was the driving force behind their creative process and their main composer and arranger. Rizzo played guitar on “The Tonight Show” for 10 years before finding his place in this trio. Rizzo’s original pieces are a testament to how music can heal the soul and uplift one’s spirit. Rizzo played these original instrumentals on guitar and Ken Wild on the big standing bass and the bass guitar. 

Rizzo jokingly mentioned his affection for bad titles as he introduced his first original of the night titled “BADT.” The song, named after the alarm company ADT completely by accident, said Rizzo. He had to add the B, so it made sense after he hurriedly jotted down the first thing he saw, which was the familiar alarm company. This song showed Wild’s power over his instrument with fast complex bass work, and Rizzo’s with long guitar strums and jazzy rhythm. 

Trumpet Player (Credit: Lucas Allmann-Pexels)

Rizzo’s second original had a Western feel and was almost an ode to Old Town and was titled, “Lonesome Cowboy.” This song was a testament to Rizzo’s prowess in his compositions as this melody transported you back to the times of the Wild West. With each strum, you could feel the loneliness and the desperation of the cowboy and the hot desert sun on your back. Wild’s instrument switch-up adds so much depth and grit to the sound that each deep bass note thrums through your body. The only way I can describe the sound is walking down a long dirt road in cowboy boots as the rocks crunch under your feet. 

Rizzo concluded his original works with a song affectionately titled “Q&A” or “Quebec and Alberta.” This title came from a pandemic-era livestream performance in which a fan suggested the name, which stuck. As the duo took their instruments out, it was as if the music was having a conversation. The melodies were a testament to their musical skill and ability to tell stories through music.

Attendees were treated to an array of timeless jazz classics that paid homage to the genre’s iconic figures. From Bob Dorough’s “Never Had the Blues at All” to Horace Silver’s soulful “Peace” and their album’s namesake “Dancing in the Dark” by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, the audience was treated to an unforgettable musical journey. Trio WoRK even added their unique twist to the evening by delivering a captivating rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” by Lennon and McCartney, showcasing their versatility and creative flair.”

Temecula, CA, USA – April 11, 2022: Old Town neighborhood. SE side rusted metal historic street portal and sculpture with a line of buildings under a blue cloudscape. Street scenery. (Credit: ClaudineVm-IStock)

As the final notes and goodbyes lingered in the air, The Merc stood as an example of the vitality of local talent and the healing power of music that brings together our diverse community. If you’re looking for something fun to partake in, consider immersing yourself in the welcoming jazz scene at The Merc. And for a deeper dive into Trio WoRK’s eclectic sound, explore their album, “Dancing in the Dark.”

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Brookshire
Hello everyone! My name is Alyssa Brookshire and I'm a journalism major here at MSJC! It is technically my first and last year at MSJC as I previously attended a university in NYC and am transferring fall semester(hopefully somewhere near the beach!). It is also my first year at The Talon. Even though I am a journalism major, I like to stay behind the scenes and on the editing and suggesting side of things as I hope to one day go into the editing/publishing field! Some hobbies of mine include reading, writing, interior decorating, and creating personalized playlists. Aside from my hobbies, I'm most passionate about creative/fiction writing and social justice!
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