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Traveling sax

It was, in the mid- to late-'70s, an idea whose time had clearly come. So the World Saxophone Quartet -- an imposing all-star coalition of avant-garde jazz saxophonists -- came first in 1976. Then, in 1977, the Rova Saxophone Quartet was formed in San Francisco. And finally, in 1978, came the formation of the locally stellar and widely known Amherst Saxophone Quartet -- the only one, after all, ever to appear on "The Tonight Show."

Of all the saxophone quartets extant, though, the locally lesser-known Rova Quartet may be the one with the most varied and entirely unexpected repertoire. Comfortable with meeting any kind of musical challenge from Ives and Messiaen to John Coltrane's frenzied heaven-scaling "Ascension," its members are likely, at any given time, to play just about anything (including any number of pieces commissioned by them).

As part of the Gusto at the Gallery series, the Rova Saxophone Quartet will play an unusual and remarkable free concert at 8 this evening in the auditorium of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

As free music events go, this one -- to understate somewhat -- is way cool.

-- Jeff Simon

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