Randy Bernsen, Heart Mind and Soul Review
by Jeff Becker
Randy Bernsen, a seasoned artist with roots in Needham, Massachusetts, and a flourishing career in South Florida, brings a rich musical collection to the table with his latest release, Heart Mind and Soul. This album elegantly encapsulates Bernsen’s extensive journey from playing alongside the legendary Jaco Pastorius to collaborating with giants like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, but it also showcases his evolution as a musician and composer.
“Prodigal Son” is a fine example of Bernsen’s mastery over fusion grooves. The transition from electric to acoustic guitar against a synth-backed interlude is a brilliant display of his ability to blend diverse textures seamlessly. His guitar solos, unfolding logically and musically, highlight his emphasis on emotional flow and rhythmic precision. The track demonstrates Bernsen’s conversational style in music, where his guitar speaks and tells a story.
“Prodigal Son” also features an outstanding section where Bernsen exchanges improvised lines with Derek Sims and Bob Franceschini, showcasing his ability to maintain a compelling musical dialogue. The deep chemistry between David Nizri’s drums and Jimmy Haslip’s bass provides the groove. This interaction between the players underscores the album’s cohesive and in-the-pocket ensemble play.
In “Shepherd’s Heart,” Bernsen crafts a soulful ballad that resonates with emotional depth. His acoustic guitar work, accompanied by rich synth sounds, creates a landscape of lyrical phrases gradually building in intensity. This track is further enhanced by the contributions of Uzi and David Nizri, providing a supportive backdrop for Bernsen’s explorations. Bob Mintzer’s warm saxophone tones add a layer of emotional depth, complementing the piece’s overall mood.
Bernsen’s approach to guitar playing is distinguished by its conversational and emotional depth. He uniquely commands various guitar tones, whether on an electric or acoustic guitar. His rhythmic chemistry with the ensemble is always in sync, providing a solid foundation for his musical narratives.
As a composer, Bernsen proves to be a true fusion artist. His compositions traverse various styles, from blues and funk to jazz and Latin jazz, creating an album that is a vibrant fusion of these genres and more. The album flows effortlessly, held together by Bernsen’s skillful compositional hand and his ability to convey a wide range of musical expressions.
Heart Mind and Soul is a must-listen for fans of fusion music. The album showcases Bernsen’s exceptional talent as a performer and composer, but it is also an outstanding collection of expressive musicianship of his ensembles. Each track on the album contributes to a rich, cohesive narrative, making it a significant addition to the fusion genre and confirming his status as a versatile and profoundly expressive artist in fusion music.