James Fernando : The Lonely Sailor Review
A solo release gives every artist and an opportunity to display the salt within their core artistry. There is nowhere to hide within the cover of other instruments. Pianist James Fernando has crafted his first solo album, The Lonely Sailor. Stylistically Fernando leans heavily into the classical genre with an electronically altered piano. The album features eight original compositions that Fernando describes as a journey of personal growth. This is depicted by the piano at the onset of the album; the piano is pure and acoustic; as the album progress, each piece becomes more augmented until almost entirely electronic.
Opening with the title track, Fernando establishes an elegant pulse with his left hand as the melody flows above the chordal figures. The second section has an element of Chopin style to the writing. The composition is well-paced and drinks deeply from modern classical harmony with jazz colors and substitutions. The center section is an improvisational section over a rolling chordal figure. Fernando is equally skilled as an improviser as he is a composer. The element of improvisation does lead one to think of jazz, but the style, developments of themes, and harmonic and melodic colors are more in the classical wheelhouse. This is a beautiful third-steam composition either way.
Fernando leans to the Neo-Classical genre with his use of electronics on “The Other Side of the Storm.” He generates all the sounds from the piano initially, feeding the signal into his computer to be processed from a series of mics placed around the piano. That gives the sound a more organic feel and texture. This composition is based around a moving theme that is taken through multiple harmonic and melodic developments. Fernando’s fluidity in keeps the melody intact while flowing arpeggiated figures swirling across the keyboard is impressive. Interesting sounds pushing forward in the modern classical vein.
Fernando’s goal is to expand the jazz vocabulary by blending classical textures and tackling what he cites as limitations by most pianists that focus on playing mostly chords with the left hand and melodies with the right. Fernando clearly explores the entirety of possibilities of combining Neo-Classical and Third Steam with the instrument through the journey of the protagonist in The Lonely Sailor.