Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon brought his quartet to Albright-Knox Art Gallery on Sunday and played to a full house of enthusiastic folks, many of whom probably never heard of him and were there solely due to the reputation of the museum's "Art of Jazz" series for bringing in top-notch musicians.
Nobody was disappointed, and, at the end of the program, the resulting standing ovation was well-deserved.
Before showing up in Buffalo, Zenon had honed his chops via academia (Berklee College of Music and Manhattan School of Music) and the bandstand where he played in groups with Charlie Haden, Steve Coleman, Ray Barretto, Bobby Hutcherson and David Sanchez while occasionally serving to bolster the sax section of the world renowned Village Vanguard Orchestra and the Mingus Big Band.
Pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole also played with Barretto and Sanchez and, coincidently enough, attended the Manhattan School of Music. The paths of all four musicians crossed often and the respect they had for the others' talents was probably reason enough for them to play together under Zenon's leadership.
Their near-telepathic ease with each other was apparent as they meshed tune after tune into an hourlong whole, a suite that blended solos and unison passages, showing off their abilities while playing as a quartet, a trio, a duo or taking solos. After Zenon introduced his compatriots, they banded together for another set of impressive playing.
Zenon was the obvious focal point of these musical pyrotechnics, playing like the twisted offspring of Sonny Criss and Pacquito D'Rivera in the ballad portions while taking notes from John Coltrane and Greg Osby in the up-tempo sections.
Cole is the other outstanding soloist in the group, showcasing an impressive array of sonic textures from his kit, doing far more interesting things with his solos than is normal, turning what is usually an excuse for percussive overkill into individual works of art.
Toward the end of the concert, a tune called "The Missing Piece" was the perfect time for Perdomo to display some arresting single-note passages and give evidence that he could be a pianist to watch.
Bassist Glawischnig's solos were fewer but no less attention-grabbing. His first one was an exercise in harmonics while the others he took were strong but a bit closer to what could be considered a more mainstream style of jazz bass riffing.
Miguel Zenon Quartet Part of Art of Jazz Series on Sunday in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.