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Young blood Eldar, Zenon bring fresh talent to big jazz weekend

His full name is Eldar Djangirov, but he has always wanted the world to simply call him Eldar. The world, to its continued admiring amazement, has been only too happy to oblige.

Something important is about to happen to the young jazz pianist Saturday, while he plays at the Seneca Niagara Casino. It's his birthday Saturday, and he will turn all of 20 -- still not old enough to have a drink at the place he's playing, despite his formidable talent.

But then he is part of something very important that is going to happen in our environs this weekend: a sudden, wonderful visitation of first-rate young jazz musicians from across various different ponds.

Along with Eldar's appearance in the Bear's Den with his trio, Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon -- who now lives in San Francisco and is still shy of 30 -- will bring his quartet to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's Art of Jazz Series Sunday.

We have long had a kind of feast or famine jazz life in Western New York, but after such a long famine, this weekend is definitely a fiesta.

Eldar is originally from Kyrgyzstan in the old Soviet Union, which may sound like someplace Borat would claim as a vacation spot but which is assuredly very real. Eldar was 9 when he emigrated here and, in the years since, he has grown into one of the most technically formidable jazz pianists since Oscar Peterson. Not only, though, does Eldar play with Tatumesque velocity, but he also has a large harmonic imagination and a sense of swing that could knock walls down.

His taste is still fallible, but he already plays with the dash and confidence of a major and veteran jazz musician. Why shouldn't he? He's a pianist who'd already recorded three albums before he was 18 -- his first at 14.

Among his earliest fans were Benny Carter and Marian McPartland, two veterans who, between them, knew great players when they heard them. He comes to the Bear's Den in a trio.

Zenon is a terrific young jazz alto saxophonist who has, in his time, played with Charlie Haden and David Murray but made his biggest impression as the elegant, clean-lined second voice in groups led by tenor saxophonist David Sanchez.

Though he plays a different horn than Wayne Shorter, Zenon is clearly in the line of saxophone players who learned from Shorter's enormous plastic freedom in phrasing. His appearance in Buffalo on Sunday with a quartet is the extremely fortuitous result of a quick and very canny substitution when the originally scheduled Trio da Paz had to cancel.

For local jazz fans, then, this weekend is a little bit of springtime, no matter what the calendar says.




WHO: Eldar

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Bear's Den, Seneca Niagara Casino, 310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls

TICKETS: Sold out

INFO: 278-4944


WHO: Miguel Zenon Quartet

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave.

TICKETS: Sold out

INFO: 270-8292 or

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