Saxophone Quintet (AATTB) + Rhythm Section (Piano, Double Bass, Conga Drums, Cowbell, Drums)
This mambo-inspired piece of music is dedicated with great affection to Juan Carlos Ledón aka “El Bororo”, an outstanding Cuban saxophonist, who presently works as a teacher at “Belén Jesuit Preparatory School” in Miami / USA.
The genre and musical style known as mambo was created by the Cuban musician Dámaso Pérez Prado (1917 – 1989). However, it was in Mexico, the country this well-known composer emigrated to, where his interpretations first became famous.
This novel style contributed a new form of expression to the already existing rhythmic concepts characterizing Cuban music. The accentuation of the strong beats by employing the cowbell, or “cencerro”, as the defining instrument, in combination with syncopated figures being executed by saxophones and brass instruments generated a rhythmic performance hitherto unknown in Cuban music. According to Pérez Prado himself, “mambo” is a syncopated combination of a rhythmic pattern being performed by the saxophones to which any melody can be added. This is exactly what happens in part A of this composition, where the first alto sax plays the melody while the others perform the off-beats. It is primarily the baritone that plays a syncopated rhythm in addition to the rhythmic-harmonic basis of the instrumentation.
The correct execution of the notated accents on the strong beats played by the brass and saxophone sections reinforces the clear definition of this style, as is the case with such classic themes like “Mambo No. 5” and “Qué rico el mambo”, which are both compositions by the originator of this genre. Non-musical tools that became integral parts of mambo, such as the characteristic scream let out to end an 8-bar melody, are also made use of in this composition (example: measures 44 through 51).
The influence of jazz standards makes itself heavily felt in the piece
“El Bororo”. This does not only become obvious in the solo performed by the saxophones in part C but also in the riff-like effect, which is a common feature of jazz themes. In this piece, the just mentioned effect can be heard in measures 19 through 26, the only difference being that this riff is here being accompanied by the bass drum executing the first and third beats while the cowbell, or cencerro, is strictly keeping time. The influence of jazz also becomes evident during the improvised solos; they may be executed ad libitum and finally close with a piano solo, which is accompanied by a riff played by the saxophones, executing the second and fourth in order to resume the initial theme to finally conclude the piece.
As is the case with any music based on a particular musical style, the actual interpretation of “El Bororo” should be preceded by the study of representative recordings. With regard to this composition, I recommend listening to the original music created by the “King of Mambo”.