James Fernando, The Lonely Sailor, Classical Review
A new name in the jazz piano idiom is James Fernando, a young fledgling pianist who influences his music with more of a classical overtone than jazz. His beginnings developed in middle school with a love of the improvisational side of jazz. While attending high school, James garnered awards from Downbeat Magazine and the National Young Arts Foundation, including a nomination for the Jazz Fellowship Awards of the American Pianists Association. Fernando attended Berklee College of Music on scholarship, where he graduated summa cum laude. His debut release The Lonely Sailor is based in his first love of classical piano with a pinning of jazz textures, improvisation in the forms and creative freedom, but rhythmically squarely in the classical vernacular.
Positives: Fernando has a firm grasp of classical dynamics within his attack of the piano; the left and right hand are strongly independent, creating a broad palette of colorizations and textures.
Bottom Line: Though being marketed as a jazz release in the distribution outlets, The Lonely Sailor is a Neo-classical piano album, granted in the non-traditional sense, but indeed more classical in harmonic progressions and the melodic relationships of the structures around them. The rhythmic language is flowing a comes from a Chopin and Romantic era rooting, although brought to the modern age too. Fernando is clearly articulating the classical genre of music and expands upon the sonic with the use of electronics. The electronic sounds are more for timbral colors than compositional embellishments. Whereas many Neo-classical composers like Olafur Arnalds, Hauschka, and Joep Beving use electronics convey compositional statements. His compositions err on the side of darkened motifs of pensiveness. “The Journey Within” is an all-acoustic piano presentation of a form and style of a modern Chopin. The composition has nuance and sensitivity as Fernando builds to a climax of flurrying arpeggios within the tender ballade. On “Troubled Waters,” the sound borders on the side of organized chaos. “The Last Sunset at Sea” again develops a motif in a ballade setting while impressive arpeggios float effortlessly around the central idea. The use of electronics creates an eerie swirling effect under the acoustic piano. The sounds are generated by miking the piano and then processing the sound with different effects. Here, as the music builds in a crescendo, the electronics also play a more critical role in the sonic tapestry. “Ancient Lullaby” the electronic sounds play an antithesis to the beauty of the theme. The result of The Lonely Sailor is a musical statement that combines jazz, classical, a hint of New Age and electronics. Flowing freely, not being confined by any of the before-mentioned genres, allowing Fernando to express himself without the restrictions of heritage in both his compositions and improvisations. That’s the short of it!