Just listening to smoky-voiced Valerie Ford speak is a treat, but visitors to the Island Shangri-La's Lobster Bar have the best treat of all. Ford, pianist Vincent Stith, with whom she's been playing for 17 years, and sax player Foster Child start the evening with smooth jazz and over four sets build up to fever pitch rhythm and blues. What's the best part about performing in a hotel? You actually get a chance to meet people from all over the world, from different backgrounds. And you also get a chance to meet people from different venues, doing different things. The most interesting people are the locals, when you sit down and talk with them and see that they really understand your music and enjoy it. That's when the job is most interesting. Hong Kong is very fast paced. I see everybody is in a business mood all the time. What are some of your favourite requests? Fly Me to the Moon, Summertime, My Funny Valentine and then you have a lot of pop songs that are requested. I like singing them because it gives us a chance to broaden our repertoire. We mostly play jazz during the first two sets so people can enjoy their meal and conversation and mingle. We bring it up a little bit in the third and fourth sets. What are your most dreaded requests? There aren't any requests that I don't like. I just don't like not being able to accommodate someone with a request when I don't know a song. That bothers me because I like to please everyone. Do you think hotel performers get the respect they deserve? I don't think so. I would say performing in a hotel is quite different. It's half restaurant and half bar. So you have to bring a happy medium and keep it kind of low. I'm more of a show-person and I've learned that I have to lay back, keep it mellow and soothing and not look for attention. Do you ever crave a pop career? I've done dance music for many years at dance clubs. At my first club in Hong Kong, The Excelsior [hotel in Causeway Bay], we did pop and dance music. That was before the handover in 1997. We've played so many places; Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, Yugoslavia, Brazil, so many places. Where was the best? I loved Singapore. There was something very exciting about it. There was a lot of bands at the time - this was 1989 - so we got a chance to see other entertainment other than just being the entertainment. And the food was excellent. It's hard to say which one I liked the best because they all offer something different - all the cultures - that's what makes the world so beautiful; everyone has something to bring to the pot to make you smile.