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.
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.
Miguel Zenon, alto saxophone
Luis Perdomo, piano
Hans Glawischnig, bass
Eric Doob, drums