The capital is all set for an evening of energetic jazz music brought straight from New Orleans courtesy of Wynton Marsalis, the nine-time Grammy Award-winner.
tabloid! caught up with the artist, whose instrument of choice is the trumpet, for a quick telephone interview ahead of his concert at the Emirates Palace auditorium tomorrow as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival.
"I think our performance is going to be pretty good, I'm honoured and deeply grateful to be part of the Abu Dhabi Festival. I think it's going to be a wonderful experience, interacting with people from different cultures," he said.
Since this is Marsalis' first visit to the Middle East, I asked whether he had ever heard any Arabic music. "I love Um Kulthum and I enjoy listening to Arabic music in general," he said.
"I love the way [Arabic artists] call on members of their band to perform solos. I'm looking forward to learning something new from the artists in Abu Dhabi and maybe performing with them… that's part of my objective, to work with an ensemble. I once performed with a group from Ghana, another which specialised in tango, and one that performed flamenco jazz," he added.
Marsalis will also be participating in a jazz workshop at the UAE University's Shaikh Khalifa auditorium in Al Ain. "I've done thousands of classes with children to teach jazz and its objectives, because every culture has a different etiquette, a different way of approaching music. We try to understand that from each other. Anyone can hear music physically, but it's a different thing to understand what you are hearing," he explained.
Ever the Southern gentleman, each response to my questions began with a "yes ma'm" or "no ma'm" before he went on to complete his answers.
"No ma'm, I haven't heard of Il Divo [the opera quartet created by Simon Cowell who performed at the Abu Dhabi Festival yesterday].
"I don't like to give my opinion on anything or anyone… in the end, all music styles are related in one way or another to each other. I love to hear music live because each style teaches you something new. For example, Noh, a Japanese music style, teaches you the importance of silence while another style might show you the importance of lyricism," Marsalis explained.
For all the memorable moments in his career, such as performing at US President Barack Obama's inauguration last year, Marsalis is humble about his great achievements, in the jazz world and beyond. "Yes ma'm, I'm very grateful for all that I've achieved, but I would love to see a complete jazz renaissance one day, not just from the music but also the celebration of humanity and freedom that is a part of the jazz world.
"I've noticed that there are many promising young jazz musicians, however, this type of music is about longevity, it's not like American Idol where charisma will help you get ahead, right here, right now. You have to prove yourself. "