The opening of Quincy Jones’s first jazz club would be big news anywhere in the world, but in Dubai – a city without a discernible jazz scene or dedicated purist-pleasing venue – it is at once a massive vote of confidence and a brave stab in the dark from a man notoriously unafraid of risk.
On the basis of my midweek visit to Q’s, the man is once again right on the money – as he has proved to be repeatedly throughout a 65-year career.
Q’s aims to recapture the jazz heyday. Set a few steps from the Palazzo Versace Dubai hotel lobby, long-time UAE revellers might almost feel underwhelmed when entering this unassuming space – but this very simplicity lends Q’s an intimate, timeless, after-hours feel.
Minimally furnished in deep, dark hues, only an artful neon-lit logo hanging behind the stage – and a framed music score for the 1985 charity single We Are the World, adorned with dozens of celebrity signatures (and Cyndi Lauper’s lipstick) – suggest the identity of the bar’s celebrity backer.
The menu shouts louder, with a long list of cocktails with names inspired by different periods and tunes from Q’s career (The Dude and Body Heat, for example).
The kitchen’s offerings – high-end fare riffing on American soul food – are sublimely presented. When the bar manager told me Jones devoured the Thriller Ribs after stopping by unannounced a night earlier, I had to try this rustic, untamed beef treat.
The cheesecake was also great – but at a jazz club the proof of the pudding is not in the eating, but on the stage.
Hand-picked by Jones to be the first resident act is British drummer Ollie Howell, whose shifting quartet will perform three one-hour sets, five nights a week (Monday to Friday), from 8.30pm, until February.
This is the real deal. Playing predominately original material, the band stretch out regally over Howell’s bearts, often in complex time signatures, each marked by incisive, idiosyncratic melodic hooks.
Tenor saxophonist Duncan Eagles spews gutsy, freewheeling bravado, countered by the measured melodicism of pianist Tom Millar, while bandleader Howell brings a jaw-dropping degree of poise and versatility to the sticks.
The levels of technical skill and ingenuity of these guys is beyond anything you will see elsewhere in the UAE – get there quick before the secret gets out.
• Q’s Bar and Lounge is open Monday to Friday, 6pm to 2am, with live music from 8.30pm, at Palazzo Versace Dubai. For reservations, call 04 556 8888 or email [email protected]