ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Big Band played to a packed house of enthusiastic jazz fans last night at the One to One Hotel.
"I'm a huge jazz fan," said Wissam El Hassanieh, 38. "It's just a great evening, and the weather is beautiful."
The event was sponsored by Abu Dhabi Classic FM, which is owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company.
Mr El Hassanieh won a radio competition to attend the event. "They ran this quiz, and all week I was texting them the answers to the question," he said. "I didn't think I was going to win anything, then I got the call today. So, I rushed all the way from Dubai to be here."
The 20-person multi-cultural Big Band first broke into a lively rendition of George Gershwin's classic "How Long Has This Been Going On?". "George Gershwin was my first inspiration," said Mr El Hassanieh. "He was really a pioneer in different types of music."
The woman crooning out the lyrics made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the film "Funny Face" was Sinead Keane, 29, who is from Ireland. Mrs Keane has been singing all her life but, only started singing jazz after joining the band two years ago. Making the leap to jazz was an easy one, she said. "Who wouldn't want to sing with a big band? It's awesome."
The three-year-old Abu Dhabi Big Band is the only one of its kind in the region, and is made up of Abu Dhabi residents. Andy Gray, one of the trombone players, said that he liked the eclectic nature of the group. "It's a mix of professionals, former professional and amateurs," he said. "It's a bit of a Heinz 57 mix, but it's good."
The size of the band varies depending on the gig, but more than 20 different nationalities are represented in the group. Their recent events include a party at the British embassy for the Queen's birthday.
The event at One to One will be the band's final gig of the year, but interested parties can book them by going to their website, www.abudhabibigband.com.