Seven swinging joints for a classier night of live music in Dubai
Blue Bar Afif Jazz’s Friday night residency at Blue Bar is a long-standing live music staple. Brothers drummer Rony and bassist Elie Afif, along with Jino Kim on sax and Tigran Peshtmajyan on vibes, serve up swinging sets of jazz standards that won’t alienate a casual crowd, but never compromise on credibility. The venue also hosts ragged rock covers from new band Slipstream on Thursdays – but for class it’s all about Friday night. You can also catch Afif Jazz playing as a trio at Ruth’s Chris on Thursdays. Music Thu-Fri 9.30pm-1.30pm. Novotel Dubai World Trade Centre (04 332 0000).
Jazz@Pizza Express While the restaurant chain may be synonymous with Italian food, jazz buffs in the know will tell you that London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho is one of the UK’s hottest joints, programming challenging touring groups every night of the week and offering something far less touristy than Ronnie Scott’s down the road. Jazz@Pizza Express recently launched its first overseas branch in Dubai. Opening with a soft launch in mid-February, the quaint JLT bar-restaurant hosts pianist Nathan Hill nightly, as well as occasional musicians’ jam nights, and plans to welcome larger guest bands and launch an outdoor terrace when the venue acquires a licence – which the management hopes will come through any day now. Music daily 6pm-midnight. Cluster A, next to Mövenpick Hotel & Residence Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 441 6342).
Koubba Bar For an intimate evening of live music, it’s hard to beat Koubba – resident duo Heart & Soul work through jazz standards and more, led by Lorendo’s incredible Joe Pass-style guitar work. You can also catch them at Al Qasr’s brunch – and if you fancy something a little more upbeat, wander through the Madinat to Jambase, where impressive duo Few As Much perform electronic looping tricks to rework popular hits with flair (playing Tues-Sat 9pm-1.30am). Music Mon-Wed 8.45pm-12.30am, Thu-Fri 9pm-12.45am. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Mojo Former residents at nearby Blue Bar, rocking covers band Marwan & the Mojos have now taken a new home – at a venue named after themselves. While the brand of rock classics may not be as ‘classy’ as the other venues here, its location at the top of retro club Republique, and the alternative clientele, make this new venue far cooler than your average rock bar. Music Thu-Fri 10pm-2am. Republique, The Address Dubai Mall (04 438 8888).
MusicHall Unlike anything else in Dubai, new Beirut import MusicHall is a cabaret-like experience that serves up a dozen or so performers in a single evening – expect to see everything from oud improvisations to eastern European folk dances. The theatre-style setup makes it a great place to soak up the talented musicians – but be aware there’s a minimum spend of Dhs300 pe bar stool, or Dhs450 at a table, and advance booking is recommended. Open Thu-Fri 9pm-3am. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0000).
Ruth’s Chris Steak House The newer branch of this quality American chain has expanded to host a range of decent jazz acts four nights a week. Head down on Fridays for the impressive Gypsy Jazz Project, a guitar-led quartet who swing Django Rehinhardt-style. Meanwhile Afif Jazz play as a slimmed-down trio on Thursdays, and the Piano Girls duo play on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Live music Wed-Sat 9pm-11.30pm. The Address Dubai Marina (04 454 9538).
The Ivy With a Soho gentleman’s club-meets-French bistro vibe, we’d long thought the Dubai branch of this British restaurant chain would be the perfect home for live jazz – which is why we were pleased last year when the management launched the Jazz at The Ivy programme. It currently hosts showy, crooning vocalist Ciaran Fox on Tuesday nights and Friday lunchtimes, soul singer Rachael Calladine on Thursdays and sax player Matt West, jamming with a backing track, on Fridays. Live music Tue, Thu-Fri 8pm-11pm; Fri noon-4pm. Jumeirah Emirates Towers (04 319 8767).