The Steve Vai who released the startlingly virtuosic "The Story of Light" in mid-August might sound like a young artist full of fresh and vibrant ideas, but in fact, he's a fully tenured veteran now in his fourth decade as performer and record maker.

"Light" sounds like 2012, certainly, but its roots go back to the late '70s, when Vai was hired by Maestro Frank Zappa to do transcriptions of Zappa's dizzying compositions for the rest of the band. From Zappa, Vai learned the fine art of the unexpected, in compositional terms, and it has been this very trait that separated the guitarist from his "shredder" peers, as his compositions became more and more adventurous through the decades. (If you doubt that Vai is more serious composer than simply technically incredible guitarist, check out "Mikie Kenneally's Vai Piano Reductions, Vol. 1," in which fellow Zappa alum Kenneally transcribes Vai solos and compositions for piano. It is, in a word, incredible.)

Vai, who has long enjoyed a healthy fan base in Western New York, brings his "The Story of Light" tour to the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Saturday. Beverly McLellan will open the show. Tickets start at $29.50 (box office). Visit

- Jeff Miers