By Adam Rosenfeld
The Falls Church music scene continues to expand with another local artist releasing new music.
Little City resident and pianist James Fernando dropped his debut album Extended Layover late last month.
Falling into the category of modern jazz, the album features Fernando playing piano alongside Toronto-based musician Minjia Chen, who provides the vocals. Fernando said he wants his music to expand the category of jazz and challenge the listener.
“I hope that people feel emotional, and it’s exciting on that level,” he said. “We’re trying to push boundaries. My goal is to fill a void. I want it to be something very fresh.”
Fernando may be a solo artist, but his collaboration with artist Mingjia Chen will not be their last.
The two met last summer at the 2017 Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in Alberta, Canada and became partners by the end.
In fact, the title for their album was inspired by their experiences during an extended layover in Toronto on their way back from the summer workshop.
“It was clear that we were hearing things the same way and looking for similar things in our music, so we started working together,” Fernando said. “It’s a collaboration, but it’s also one that I envision being a long term collaboration”
A recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Fernando has a long history with music. After seeing his brother play piano, he decided to pick up the instrument at the age of five and instantly fell in love, playing whenever he got the chance.
However, his real passion for piano, as well as jazz, was ignited during his sixth grade year.
“I joined the middle school jazz band, and there was someone a couple of years older than me that was so good,” he said. “He was way better than everyone else, and that was really inspiring for me.”
His drive to improve at his artform led him to be named to the 2013 Jazz Band of America and has given him the ability to attend the Berklee Summer Jazz Workshop.
While most artists find a creative process that allows them to churn out music on a regular basis, Fernando approaches his music differently. He believes that if there is a set process, then each song will sound the same.
“If it was the same way every time, then the creative process wouldn’t be so creative, and I’d have a million songs,” he said. “I usually build it block by block, growing it from a central idea, rather than a divine inspiration.”
As an independent artist unaided by a publicist, Fernando has been promoting the album through grassroots efforts like social media and word-of-mouth. While he said it has been hard to accurately gauge the reach of his work, the reception has been mostly positive during performances.
“We’ve done some live shows and people seem to really enjoy it,” he said.
Fernando is currently working his first solo album, The Lonely Sailor which does not yet have a set release date, but is expected to be dropped by the end of the year.
Extended Layover can be purchased on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon, and Fernando’s music can be found on jamesfernando.com.