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We meet the vocal powerhouse and soul sensation, who is the new resident act at Q’s Bar and Lounge
Hollywood’s jazz and blues siren Brenna Whitaker, was born and raised in Kansas City. Her larger-than-life stage presence and haunting vocals are a beacon for jazz aficionados, attracting seasoned entertainers such as Quincy Jones, who hand-picked her as the newest resident act at his very own Q’s Bar and Lounge at the Palazzo Versace Dubai.
She boasts a colourful harem of fans including, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones and Gladys Knight, as well as a younger generation of musicians, including Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and John Mayer, who flock to her shows to drink up her performances.
A Verve/Universal Records recording artist, her debut album was produced by legendary David Foster. Whitaker was featured on the recent So You Think You Dance finals, the new We Love Disney album, sang on Andrea Bocelli’s American Tour and travels the world with her band, performing at shows and some of the most exclusive events around the world.
Quincy Jones has a lot of love for this talented artist: “She’s got the swing, she’s got the sass, but most importantly, she’s got the pipes! This little lady absolutely demands your ears, and I can’t wait for all-a-y’all to hear exactly what I’m talkin’ about. So, please give up all the love you got for Brenna Whitaker to take the stage at my Q’s Bar & Lounge!”
Debonair caught up with her:
What is the one thing you would tell your 16-year-old self?
Stay in school. I left school earlier than I wish I had to pound the pavement in the theatre world. Sometimes I’d like more structure and to learn psychology, western civilisation and astronomy.
If you could invite five people — living or dead — to the ultimate dinner party, who would they be and what would you serve?
Walt Disney, Ryan Ward, Pearl Bailey, Will Farrell and my sisters. We would have ribs and all the fixings from Joe’s Kansas City BBQ.
If you could wake up in someone else’s body for just one day, who would it be and why?
I’d love to be a slightly intimidating bird for a day. Flying around somewhere beautiful with rivers, oak trees and berries!
Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so special?
There is a place in Carbondale, Colorado, called Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs. It’s on the drive from LA to my 96-year-old grandmother’s in Denver. I have retreated there many times in many different moods and it doesn’t matter what season it is, it’s my favourite type of nature and air.
What song or album could be the soundtrack to your life and why?
The orchestral rendition of Both Sides Now by Joni Michell. She musically captures nostalgia from my early, midlife and future emotions the best. I’m basically the bassoon solo on that song.
What character from a movie/book/series can you relate to?
I am a total mix of Dainty June, Gypsy Rose Lee and Mama Rose from Gypsy, the movie musical.
What inspires you musically?
Mostly the sheer doom of life and finding a way to laugh at it.
If you could time travel to any gig or concert that has ever taken place, which one would it be?
I would love to have seen Nancy Wilson in the 1960s anywhere in the world.
Tell us something that will surprise us?
I’m obsessed with looking at historic farm properties for sale.
Tell us about your latest project, the residency at Q’s. How did it come about, and what highlights and challenges are you experiencing?
My latest project is the balance of being a mother while also being a light musically to people. Quincy Jones and his production team came to a couple of my shows in LA and I’ve worked with Sheléa and Rogelio Douglas Jr, who both did the residency before me. My summer was open and the family was able to tag along, so it was a win-win!
Quincy is one of the biggest pioneers in music, so it’s an honour in the highest to bring some torch songs and jazz energy to Dubai. I have an incredible trio and we are having a blast getting familiar with Dubai. It’s a big, booming city, the summer heat takes some getting used to, but inside you are nice and cool. I’m grateful to use this intimate music room in this incredibly glamorous hotel and give a timeless show to people from all over the world.
What gives a man sex appeal?
Training jiu-jitsu, reading to children and cooking.
Brenna Whitaker brings her own kind of delicious, vintage jazz to Q’s Bar and Lounge until August 17.
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