James Fernando The Lonely Sailor Review
Pianist James Fernando may not be a name you are readily familiar with, but he should be. While in high school, James received awards from both Downbeat Magazine and the National Young Arts Foundation and was nominated for the Jazz Fellowship Awards of the American Pianists Association. He was also selected for the prestigious Jazz Band of America, as well as the Berklee Summer Jazz Workshop, placing him firmly among the elite musicians of his age group. James attended Berklee College of Music on scholarship, where he graduated summa cum laude after only three years of study.
About the Album
A solo piano release is typically one of the toughest mediums to get the industry to notice. This is unfortunate, but all too many times true. This should not deter your exploration of this album. Fernando has taken the concept of blending classical textures with the jazz vocabulary on The Lonely Sailor. His grasp of both genres is skillfully blended in a delightfully slanted listen towards jazz. Fernando also implements an unusual approach in the way he augments his solo piano sound. Using what he calls the electronically augmented piano. He explains, “To accomplish this, I placed contact microphones on the piano and ran the sound through my computer while controlling the software with a foot pedal. The effect is that the acoustic piano is always audible, but there are electronic elements that enter and exit throughout the course of the album.”
Our Favorite Track
Our favorite track is the opening title track “The Lonely Sailor.” Instantly creating interest with various lines and activity, Fernando pulls us into his world of swirling harmonies and lush counterpoints. His rhythmic ideas are both interesting and propel the music. The theme is richly developed through many registers and permutations. The classical overtones are beautiful, Fernando is obviously at home in both the improvisory worlds of jazz and the structured world of classical. The result is a solo piece that is moving and always exploring. His solo section is captivating as he freely expresses himself across a wide range of sonic colors and variations. The shape of the composition is also of note here, Fenando builds to a definite climax and then brings the music back to a relaxed and suited ending. This is achieved both as a composer and a player with dynamics, intensity of lines and energy of the rhythmic structures.
Fernando’s playing is multidimensional throughout The Lonely Sailor. His ability to expand the range of his lines to both his hands allows him to explore many more colors and possibilities of solo piano playing than most pianists. The blending of classical textures with the deep understanding of the jazz vocabularies to the forefront of the project, makes it very distinct project. Fernando is also an outstanding technical player. This is a dual edge that brings the music to life in many creative ways. Also, Fernando’s use of “electronically augmenting” the piano by recording the piano with microphones and controlling the playback via foot pedal is cutting edge. Throughout the album Fernando is breaking ground and this should inspire classical, jazz and forward thinking pianists across the genre spectrums.