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As a frequent traveler between Los Angeles and San Diego, I've watched the "sleepy" little town of Temecula, in fact the entire Temecula Valley, transform into a thriving wine community. Thornton Winery is a centerpiece of Temecula Wine Country, best known for fine champagnes. But it's also a destination in itself, and for 22 years has been home to one of California's most successful jazz & wine "pairings." The 8/7 show in the Champagne Jazz Concert Series featured keyboard favorite Keiko Matsui, and The Sax Pack.
Thornton's concert venue is designed as a Mediterranean terrace and seats around 600 very comfortably. With views overlooking the Temecula Wine Country, each seat also offers a good view of the stage whether it's reserved or general admission seating. Both types of tickets are reasonably priced, service charges are (thankfully) minimal, and gourmet supper packages are available. There's a definite "date night" ambiance as most of the concert goers are couples, and the rosy sunsets contribute to the mood. A well chilled and exceptionally tasty 2010 Chardonnay adds it's own "jen ne se qua'!
Japanese born Keiko Matsui began playing piano at age 5 and now has 22 albums to her credit. Matsui's Thornton Winery set showcased both her well known favorites and tracks from her latest project "The Road..." She charmed the crowd with stories of recording the new album, and performed on multiple keyboards. Her exceptional backup band featured saxophonist Jackiem Joyner, a successful recording artist in his own right, with three albums and two number one singles to his credit.
The "who knew" suprise of the night turned out to be The Sax Pack, featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, and Kim Waters. While each of them are well known in Contemporary Jazz circles for their solo careers, what they bring together as a trio is a burst of sophisticated fun. The three had the crowd laughing out loud at their almost savage repartee, and dancing in the aisles to their funky jazz and R&B stylings. Kashiwa, Cole, and Waters each got moments in the spotlight, but it was the musical camaraderie that made the show.
The Thornton Champagne Jazz Series continues through October 15th featuring such stars as George Benson, Brian Culbertson, and Chris Botti. check out: http://cf.thorntonwine.com/tickets.php I suggest you make a day of it by visiting quaint Old Town Temecula for lunch, and a casual stroll down rustic Front Street. There are several mid-priced hotels nearby including the Rodeway Inn in Old Town, and the Hampton Inn nearby. Oh, and did I mention the wine?