Nexas Quartet are focused on promoting the musical diversity of the saxophone and I cannot think of a better vehicle to do so than Argentine Tango. I have worked with quartet member Jay Byrnes and guest pianist Daniel Rojas before on Byrnes’ solo Saxophone CD El Asunto Del Tango and I was excited to hear what the sound of a saxophone quartet would bring to this genre. Nexas Quartet and their CD Tango de Saxos did not disappoint! The saxophone quartet is such a cohesive chamber music unit; add to that the musicianship and musicality of four incredible musicians and you really can’t go wrong.
As a Tango enthusiast I was worried that I would miss the Bandoneón sound and other characteristics that make tango quintessentially tango, but I had nothing to fear. The quartet bought the lyrical and sultry melodies of the Tango to life as well as the rhythmical, percussive and powerhouse rhythms of the bass. Many of the extended techniques traditionally played on string instruments in tango were translated beautifully onto the saxophone like the ‘arrastre’ (the slight anticipation of the beat and a glissando up to the note usually played on the bass and piano) was emulated beautifully by Byrnes on the Baritone Saxophone and the ‘whips’ usually heard on the violin can be heard in track 4 Muerte Del Ángel in the soprano saxophone voices. While the saxophone quartet is unique in its expression of Tango it is still true to the authentic Argentinian style.
The CD opens with a powerful work by the well-known Astor Piazzolla. The exciting piece starts with an aggressive melody followed by a more flowing middle section setting up the many moods that are experienced over the CD’s duration of 1 hour and 9min. The Angel suite to me was the highlight. The balanced quartet with distinctive voices but cohesive sound created a beautiful version of the work, unlike any other I have heard. Hiding amongst the Tango greats is a composition by the groups’ soprano saxophonist Michael Duke. Los Zapatos de Roberto or Robert’s Shoes is a fun, passionate and virtuosic work that makes you want to find your own fancy shoes to dance in.
The addition of Daniel Rojas on piano and Stephen Cuttriss on Bandoneón to the saxophone quartet for Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteńas, (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) added the flavour of traditional Buenos Aires and is reminiscent to the voicing of Piazzolla’s own Quintet. The Nexas Quartet version of Rodriguez’s La Cumparsita, arguably one of the most famous tangos, is a fun and lively rendition. This tango is played as the last dance of the evening and is the perfect note to end to the CD on.
Watch the video for a taster…