Un Solo Beso
You can justifiably term Laura Fernandez a modern-day renaissance woman. An acclaimed painter, award-winning illustrator and designer, and now a successful real estate agent, she is also a popular radio host and producer and highly skilled singer, songwriter and pianist. Her musical talents have found their fullest expression yet on Un Solo Beso. Her second solo album, it will be released on - insert date. To make the record, Laura found the perfect musical soulmate in the form of producer Billy Bryans. After finding Canadian pop fame as a key member of Parachute Club, Billy began a deep exploration of Latin music. Now recognized as one of Canada's leading Latin music promoters and DJs, he fuses that experience with his record production roots to vibrant effect on Un Solo Beso. The happy result of their musical marriage is an album that seamlessly fuses two different approaches, the discipline of pop-folk songwriting and the musically expansive sounds of Latin and jazz styles. In Un Solo Beso, they have created a work that is musically and lyrically refreshing and compelling. Recording sessions took place at noted Toronto studios Hallamusic and Canterbury Sound. "The process was remarkably free of drama," explains Bryans, while Laura loved working with musicians who shared her mother tongue of Spanish. "That made for an amazing connection, as language brings together people in a different way," she says. Credits on Un Solo Beso read like a Who's Who of Toronto's vibrant Cuban music community. Those adding tasteful accompaniment included drummer Rosendo "Chendy" Leon, bassists Paco Luviano and Yoser Rodriguez, percussionists Joaquin Hidalgo and Jorge-Luis Torres, guitarists Elmer Ferrer and Luis Mario Ochoa, keyboardists Glenda Del Monte Escalante, Hilario Duran and Roberto Linhares Brown, trumpeter Alexis Baro, alto saxophonist Luis Deniz, and accordionist Juan Diego De Sedas. "We all know each other from the scene so it felt like family," says Laura, and this musical kinship helps account for the warm vibe of the record. To fully frame many of her well-crafted compositions within a Latin setting, Fernandez had the inspired idea of inviting three acclaimed Cuban-Canadian musicians, Juno-winning pianist Hilario Duran, guitarist/bandleader Luis Mario Ochoa, and keyboardist Roberto Linares Brown, to arrange her songs. "I'd been playing Hilario and Luis Mario's music on the radio, so I knew their styles well," she explains. "I wanted that breezy, light and sexy feeling of Luis Mario's music, while Hilario is stylistically so sophisticated and such a beautiful piano player. Billy suggested Roberto Linares for the lighter more upbeat songs, and he was just fantastic. I was so humbled by the musicianship on the record, and I had to elevate myself to another level." Having three different arrangers helps account for the bracing diversity of the album. Laura simply refuses to be constrained by genre barriers, preferring to let each song take on it's own shape organically. "We wanted to give every song it's own personality. Instead of focusing upon a record that would rather sound all the same, I have made a record that has a variety of characters. I don't stick to convention in my life, so why should I in music? .I have to write what I feel inside and I also want to reach out and bring people and elements together." Bryans helped ensure cohesiveness within such an eclectic album. "The musical quest for me was to find each song a 'home' where they could have a distinctive flavour and personality that supported the lyrics and the melody." he explains. "Some songs ended up in specific latin American styles like merengue, bolero, and salsa, some ended up with a kind of hybrid sound, and some stayed in their original singer/songwriter structure." Un Solo Beso is a major progression from Laura Fernandez's well-received 2003 debut, The Other Side. That record explored folk-pop terrain with real skill, and Laura performed it's songs on the Toronto club circuit, regularly playing such venues as C'est What, Hugh's Room and The Free Times Café (she hosted an open mic night there for five years) as well as at numerous festivals. Fernandez also won fans internationally with some prestigious performances. An appearance with her band at the New York International Independent Music Festival saw her win the award for best band in her category (over 700 other bands), and she has also played in such legendary venues as Madison Square Garden, The Knitting Factory and the Continental club as well as in Chicago. Laura was also the only North American artist to perform (in front of 20,000 people) at the renowned World Music Festival in Varadero, Cuba insert year. Artists she shared the mainstage with included Dyango, Los Van Van Pupy y Los Que Son Son and Omara Portuondo, and Roberto Carcasses. Her renditions of songs from both The Other Side and Un Solo Beso earned an enthusiastic response. The first album featured just one song written in Spanish, "Mi Amor." Something of a signature song for Fernandez, it is transformed here into an upbeat celebration of love, with Laura's sultry vocals perfectly complemented by the trumpet playing of Alexis Baro and fluent guitars. The title track, "Un Solo Beso," is a gentle ballad featuring muted trumpet, cool sax, and delightfully subtle vocal work from Laura. Her supple and melodic voice is equally at home on a quiet tune like the gorgeous album closer, "La Barca" (sporting typically elegant piano from Hilario), and more rhythmic Latin-tinged numbers. For Un Solo Beso, there is just one English composition, the gently anthemic "I Believe In One Love," while "Red Red Bird," a song from highly regarded singer/songwriter Noah Zacharin, is given a bilingual treatment. The only other non-original song here is "Inolvidable," a tune showcasing lovely guitar and piano stylings from Ochoa and Duran. The transition to writing and singing in Spanish has come naturally to Fernandez. A catalyst has been her role as producer and host of Café Latino, a weekly radio showcase of Latin music on Toronto's Jazz FM. "Being exposed to that music has influenced me. You could say I've rediscovered my roots, and that is reflected on the album," she says. The nomadic and cosmopolitan Fernandez was born in Madrid, lived in Switzerland as a child, spent her youth in Calgary when her parents migrated there, and has lived much of her adult life in Toronto. While she has always loved music, her primary creative outlet for much of her life has been art. A highly talented painter of portraits (her father was a painter and architect), she enjoyed a long run of success as one of Canada's most prominent illustrators. Laura has illustrated numerous children's books, and her work has been seen internationally on billboards, ads, packing and magazines. Along with her partner Rick Jacobson, Fernandez has won such prestigious industry awards as the Ruth Schwartz award, the New York Art Directors Club award of excellence, and the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award, a gold medal for illustration awarded by the Canadian Library Association.. Music is now Laura's primary creative passion, and she is bringing her full energy to it's pursuit. "After painting for 25 years, there was not enough challenge or struggle. Music has became a voyage of self-discovery for me. There are no rules here, and that is exciting and liberating to me. I love the social aspects of making music, and the fact that it is a more direct route to the heart than painting even." Un Solo Beso translates as "A Single Kiss." Take one and fall in love.