The modern jazz community knew of Miguel Zenon's talent long ago. His prodigious alto saxophone technique is as strident as it is soaring: it sears and cuts, it flitters and warbles. His compositions subtly infuse the angular post-bop of today with geometric foundations and rhythmic hints of his native Puerto Rico. In 2008, when he was awarded a grant by the MacArthur Foundation — a so-called "Genius Grant" — the greater world began to notice too.
Miguel Zenon Quartet performs at Newport Jazz.
His latest album, 2008's Awake, features a quartet which absorbs the rigor of his writing with splashes of cymbals and extended piano voicings. Zenon's solos float, layering willowy ideas atop each other. He's also soon to present a new recording, modeled as a tribute to the Puerto Rican plena. The quartet featured on both discs will be the ultimate act on Saturday at the Marsalis Music stage in Newport.