D.C. pianist James Fernando is a semi-finalist in a worldwide jazz competition

James Fernando, a rising jazz pianist and composer, is representing the District as one of 50 semi-finalists in the 7 Virtual Jazz Club Global Competition.

Fernando was selected as a semi-finalist after submitting his video to a panel of judges; advancement to the finals will be partly determined by the number of “likes” the video receives on the 7 Virtual Jazz Club YouTube page. This Thursday is the last day when viewers can weigh in with votes.

Contestants this year have come from all over the globe: Spain, Ecuador, India, Indonesia and places in between. This is the fifth annual competition, which began in 2016 as an effort by the 7 Virtual Jazz Club, a nonprofit organization that promotes jazz music, musicians and culture around the world. The competition has been online-only all five years, which smoothed its transition into the Covid era. 

In his entry, Fernando plays an arrangement of the famed Beatles ballad “Blackbird,” which Paul McCartney originally wrote in the 1960s, in honor of the American Civil Rights Movement. Fernando plays a mixture of acoustic piano and electronics on the track, building the tune from barely a whisper to a fully evolved, twisting solo piano improvisation that captures the tension of the song’s inspiration. “Blackbird” also serves as a preview of his forthcoming EP, “Blackbird/Fly,” which will be released on Jan. 17.

(Full disclosure: Fernando is sometimes managed by CapitalBop’s managing director, Jamie Sandel, who had no hand in this article.)



About Jackson Sinnenberg

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Jackson Sinnenberg is a broadcast journalist and a freelance writer. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, JazzTimes, Downbeat, NPR Music, NPR.org, the Washington City Paper, On Tap/District Fray Magazine and the blog of Smithsonian Folkways Records. He began covering the city’s music scene for WGTB, Georgetown University’s radio station, where he was a show host, writer, and columnist. He graduated from Georgetown with a bachelor’s degree in American Musical Culture. Reach him at [email protected] Follow him at @sinnenbergmusic.

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