RANDY BERNSEN — Heart, Mind and Soul (review)

RANDY BERNSEN — Heart, Mind and Soul album cover Album · 2023 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Randy Bernsen, a figure whose roots extend from the quiet corners of Needham, Massachusetts, to the vibrant musical mixing pot of South Florida, has carved a niche for himself within the jazz fusion genre. His latest album, "Heart Mind and Soul," released on June 16, 2023, under Jerico Jams, is a 32-minute journey through six glowing compositions. The sounds in this project showcase Bernsen's virtuosity and the collective genius of the various bands joining him, including luminaries like Bob Mintzer, Jimmy Haslip, and others.

The album's opener, "With You Always," encapsulates the essence of Bernsen's musical philosophy: a blend of emotional depth and technical cleverness. The relaxed fusion groove of "Prodigal Son" then sets a sophisticated scene, with Bernsen transitioning seamlessly between electric and acoustic guitars, underpinned by a richly textured backdrop provided by Haslip's bass and the Nizri brother's piano and drums. This song, in particular, illustrates Bernsen's musical language, which weaves engaging musical ideas into emotionally resonant phrases.

"Shepherd's Heart" shows Bernsen's compositional skills are also built on soul-stirring melodies. Here, his acoustic guitar sings over a backdrop of rich synth sounds, with a bassline that converses eloquently with the melody, highlighting Bernsen's flair for creating music that touches the soul. Including Mintzer's warm saxophone tones adds a layer of color and energy, enriching the song's texture.

Bernsen's exploration of different tonal landscapes is evident in tracks like "Abba Father" and "Billy Gate Blues." The former is characterized by stylized melodic musings against a backdrop of graceful keyboard lines, and the latter by its gritty blues tone married to a bopping jazz fusion beat. "With You Always" has a balmy atmosphere, created through Bernsen's melodic guitar riffs that soothe and invigorate equally.

As a guitarist, Bernsen is a master of expression, utilizing his formidable technique not for display but as a tool for musical storytelling. His ability to meld various styles—blues, funk, jazz, or Latin jazz—into a cohesive whole speaks volumes of his playing skill and deep understanding of the fusion genre.

"Heart Mind and Soul" is a tone narrative woven through the strings of Bernsen's guitar, each note a word, every melody a sentence, telling hip musical stories. The ensemble's chemistry is palpable, and each musician's contribution is vital to the album's overall impact. This album is a fun listening experience. A maestro of the modern jazz fusion genre, "Heart Mind and Soul" is a solid addition to the collection of any discerning fusion listener.
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