“Pequeña Suite para Cuatro” (A Little Suite for Four) was composed for, and dedicated to, the saxophone quartet “Arsis” domiciled in the Cuban city of Pinar del Rio and directed by saxophone teacher Daniel Ayerbe, a graduate from the Havana-based Escuela Nacional de Arte (National School of the Arts). After 20 years of inexhaustible and fruitful work, the quartet’s repertoire comprises everything from classical to Latin American and Cuban music.
The first movement named “Tuning” features a melody written in B minor, which is to be played in unison, whereas the baritone and the tenor both reinforce the principal tuning note, in other words concert pitch A. In “Dentro de un Círculo” (Within a Circle), which is the title of the second movement, a leitmotiv is being reproduced: The main melody as well as variations on the latter making use of jazz phrases are repeated several times with the four instruments taking turns in assuming the main as well as the supporting voices. The correct execution of the different accents is of utmost importance.
As its name suggests, the third movement called “Relax” is based on a ballad-like melody where the soprano and the baritone saxophones are having a pleasant “conversation”. Measure 25 is rhythmically complex: The baritone plays a son tumbao whereas the other saxophones allude to an Afro-style rhythm, playing in sextuplets and finally returning to tempo primo to close in a classic 2-3 son clave.
The fourth and final movement, “Montando en un Carrusel” (Riding on the Merry-Go-Round), goes on a joyful melodic ride passing through all the saxophones one after the other; the instruments - like in the second movement – again take turns in performing the main and the supporting voices. Careful attention should be paid to the correct execution of the different accents on syncopations and off-beats, especially as of measure 39. Of equal importance is the accurate performance of the Cuban cinquillo appearing in measure 37 in the tenor, in measure 45 in the alto, in measure 47 in the soprano and finally in measures 51 to 52 in all four instruments.
I hope the big family of saxophone players will take pleasure in this suite! - J. Zalba