A journal, inspired by my love for my daughter, that embraces quality food, service and experiences which make life worth living. In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, " I cannot rest from travel. I will drink life to the lees." Seeking that incredible dining or hotel experience and writing about it. Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Katie Thiroux at Q's Bar & Lounge - Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai
When Q's, the Quincy Jones Jazz Bar and Lounge at Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai opened a few months ago, I had the pleasure of watching Shelea perform. It was hard not to fall in love with the venue. I commented on the intimacy of the venue, the well ventilated smoking area and the really laid back service that allowed me to forget I was in this ultra-luxe hotel. I remember feeling that music was again the great equaliser, the art that brings people together from everywhere.
Having missed on the last performer at Q's. I was determined not to miss Katie Thiroux, a Los Angeles native who has brought her bass along with her, not only to entertain but also to educate jazz -starved Dubai.
There is something alluring abut the bass. I am not sure what it is. Maybe it is the element of difficulty in taking an instrument like this and breaking into people's comfort zone where pianos and guitars rule. It could be that personally I have always seen it, rightly or wrongly, as a masculine instrument, so being able to see it manipulated by female hands is a surprise to my own limited mind. Or could it be that an artist can take jazz standards as well as her own compositions and create a memorable experience? Either way, sitting having a glass of Q's house champagne, R de Ruinart NV, anticipating Katie's appearance, has filled me with a high degree of excitement.
There is something striking about Katie as she takes up her position, accompanied by drummer Matthew Witek and pianist Mikan Zlatkovic. The cliche, letting music do the talking, was never truer of a performer. She appears on stage in non-descript dress and without fanfare, engages through her strumming of the strings. She is so above all image nonsense. A real artist. I have a good view. How does she do it, I wonder to myself. I am entranced by her playing and by the time she does a piece with vocals, I realise why Quincy Jones was so excited to bring her to Dubai. The moment for me is when she does Benny Carter's "When lights are low". Exquisite beauty!
What is an evening of jazz without Duke Ellington and she pays him homage on Caravan, but it is Matthew Witek's solo at the start that wow's initially. Eschewing the sticks, he allows his hands to carry the drums for us and it is during this that one really appreciates the fine acoustics of the venue.
I have my own personal moment of escape when she does Benny Goodman's 'This can't be love'. Katie's narrative before she starts captures me - there is so much heart in what she says, but she never overdoes it. The comments she adds serve only to heighten guest's appreciation for the pieces she plays. Katie has forever changed this song for me.
This can’t be love because I feel so well;
No sobs, no sorrows, no sighs
This can’t be love, I get no dizzy spell;
My head is not in the skies
My heart does not stand still, just hear it beat!
This is too sweet to be love
This can’t be love because I feel so well;
But still I love to look in your eyes
After her first set, I gather my thoughts, and alone this evening, it is easy for me to do so. Not only am I emotionally drained but I find myself in need of some nourishment. I call for the bar bites menu. The single page menu is simple and really guest-friendly. I order the Wagyu Beef tataki - the pic below does it no justice. Thin slices of beef very lightly seared with ponzu sauce make for a nice snack, but at 155AED it is a bit steep. However, delicious. As I write this, I see that they have changed the menu so please see the link below. Interacting with the wonderful staff is reason enough to order something though. They really have a way of grounding the whole Palazzo Versace experience. Lavish it might be but one still wants to feel relaxed.
At 22h30, Katie returns for her second set, continuing er deft balance between silky voice and her surreal bass skills. Among many highlights, it is her interpretation of Duke Ellington's 'Just squeeze me'. it is a sultry highpoint as Katie takes it up a notch. She is at her most feminine in this piece and it works well. In 'When Sunny gets blue' her vocals reach a stunning clarity and she launches into a gentle playfulness.
In the third and final set, there are several moments when Mikan takes centre stage with his piano playing, but for me it is in 'Corcovado' and also in 'Found you just in time', a piece dedicated to a couple celebrating their anniversary, that it goes to another level.
Katie has chosen a number of songs with love as their subject. Or rather, I should say, she has chosen a number of songs with deep and heartfelt stories of love. Her sensitive side is again on display in 'There's a small hotel', a piece in which I keep thinking about velvet as I hear her singing. Cole Porter's 'What is this called love?' takes us close to the end of what has been a sumptuous evening of bass and vocals and fittingly, she ends with a Duke medley, and running contrary to the the words of TS Eliot, ends with a bang and not a whimper!
Q's has struck gold with Katie Thiroux who has brought a very different experience to its first performer and one who not only entertains but also educates. Her performance again underlines what a perfect venue this is to transport guests to a place other than where they find themselves in their lives. Escapism it is not, for escapism implies something mindless and a place where thoughts are suspended. On the contrary, the journey we embark on with Katie is one where all faculties are very much alert, especially the heart, the traditional seat of love. Her take on several songs makes me want to immerse myself in memories of love lost as well as hope for the future. And as I leave Q's, it is with hope abounding in the heart with Emily Dickinson very much on the brain
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all
Q's Bar and Lounge Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai Qs Bar & Lounge +971 4 556 8888 Minimum spend of 250AED. Menu: Qs Menu
Disclaimer: I tried the brunch by invitation of the hotel. All views are my own.