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Randy Bernsen: Heart Mind and Soul

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Randy Bernsen: Heart Mind and Soul
Randy Bernsen, a guitarist, and composer whose roots trace back to Needham, Massachusetts before embedding himself in the vibrant musical scene of South Florida, has long been a figure within the jazz and fusion communities. His journey began with early collaborations with Jaco Pastorius and has evolved into a rich solo career that spans over three decades. His eleventh studio album, Heart Mind and Soul, is a set of six songs guided by his vast experiences and brought to life by an excellent supporting cast of musicians.

Bernsen's ensemble for this album includes a diverse roster of musicians with saxophonists Bob Mintzer and Bob Franceschini, bassist Jimmy Haslip, trumpeter Dan Davis, with keyboardist George Whitty and brothers, Uzi Nizri on keyboards and David Nizri on drums. Their collective contributions elevate the album, weaving together a variety of feels and sounds that are intricate and cohesive, which leads to an inviting listening experience.

The opening track, "Prodigal Son," sets the tone with its sophisticated fusion groove, characterized by a relaxed rhythmic foundation created by Haslip and David Nizri. Bernsen's transition from electric to acoustic guitar, supported by a synth-backed interlude, exemplifies the album's thematic exploration of musical textures. His solos, both on this track and throughout the album, are emblematic of his approach to composition—thoughtful, focused on emotional flow, and always in the pocket. "A Shepherd's Heart" is a soulful ballad where Bernsen's acoustic guitar melds with the synth landscapes of Whitty and Uzi Nizri, creating a dialogue of melodies with texture and a lyrical appeal. The interplay between Bernsen's guitar and Mintzer's saxophone adds layers of counterpoint. Bernsen's nylon-strung guitar solo is textured with subtle string bends and clean building lines.

Bernsen's versatility as a guitarist shines across the album. His ability to navigate through different tonal landscapes, from the clean- toned explorations on his Fender Telecaster to the more rootsy influences of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton on tracks like "Billy Gate Blues," shows he is a musician with technical lines and the ear to shape his sound to also be expressive. His compositions reflect a fusion ethos incorporating elements of blues, funk, jazz, and Latin jazz, offering listeners a rich, diverse sonic journey. "Chant 881" features Bernsen on guitar and orchestration with the Nizri brothers and Haslip. Bernsen's orchestration in the introduction is elegant. His nylon-strung guitar is colored with delay and reverb to match the ethereal sounds of the strings, making for an exciting and moody intro. The exotic-scaled melody is catchy and presented with band and horn hits. The ensemble is in sync, developing a fusion rock-funk feel. Bernsen switches to an electric guitar for his solo, and his expressive articulation of 'popping' various notes for extra accent strength shapes his ideas. His solo grows in intensity as he adds warm distortion and movement.

Heart Mind and Soul is an enjoyable fusion album filled with musical command, but what is most striking is it emerges as a journey through a landscape of jazz, rock, blues, Latin, and fusion. With this release, Bernsen adds another outstanding album to his already impressive catalog, and this is, without doubt, a must-listen for anyone with a love for fusion.

Track Listing

With You Always; Prodigal Son; Shepherd’s Heart; Billy Gate Blues; Abba Father; Chant 881.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Dan Davis: trumpet (1, 4); Derek Sims: trumpet (2); Bob Franceschini: saxophones (2); Bob Mintzer: saxophone (3); George Whitty: keyboard, sounds (3).

Album information

Title: Heart Mind and Soul | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Jerico Jams


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