Heart Mind and Soul

Any jazz fusion fan will recognize the names Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller, and likely their connective thread of cutting their teeth with Miles Davis before they became icons themselves. 

Yet those four fusion visionaries have another thread — they’ve also recorded with South Florida-based guitarist and composer Randy Bernsen. His 11th studio album Heart Mind and Soul is now out.

Bernsen’s debut record in 1986 featured an absolute dream-team of household names – Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, and Peter Erskine. In the years to follow, the guitarist toured the world and recorded alongside Marcus Miller, Michael Brecker, Toots Thielemans, Wayne Shorter and many more. 

In what is increasingly becoming an era of tribute acts, Bernsen continues to prove a highly-original voice as both composer and guitarist with this six-track release, which he says could be the first of a few this year.

Billy Gate Blues

The guitarist’s bandmates boast an equally impressive collective CV – including saxophonists Bob Mintzer (Yellowjackets, Jaco Pastorius) and Bob Franceschini (Mike Stern, Victor Wooten), bassist Jimmy Haslip (Allan Holdsworth, Oz Noy), trumpeters Dan Davis and Derek Sims, keyboardist George Whitty, and siblings Uzi Nizri (organ & piano) and David Nizri (drums).

The opening tracks “Prodigal Son” and “With You Always”display Bernsen’s melodic prowess as both guitarist and arranger, while “Billy Gates Blues” unearths the searing, rootsy influence of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. With stylistic references to 70’s fusion records by the likes of Weather Report or Davis’ iconic Bitches Brew, Bernsen takes the sound to a contemporary place with guitar-synthesizer technology, conjuring up the sounds of horns, keyboards and steel drums.

Bernsen started his recording career in an unorthodox way, calling a collection of jazz/fusion luminaries who, even to his surprise, agreed to be a part of his 1986 debut album Music for People, Planets & Washing Machines.

After recruiting fretless bass giant and fellow South Florida resident Jaco Pastorius and getting a return call of interest from keyboard virtuoso Herbie Hancock, it was easier to interest keyboardist Bob James and drummer Peter Erskine.

Released on MCA’s Zebra label, the album earned Bernsen write-ups in Down Beat and Guitar Player magazines and appeared to start a flourishing career.

Bernsen’s follow-up, 1987’s Mo’ Wasabi, was even better, as his initial all-stars were joined by saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Steve Gadd, and harmonica legend Toots Thielemans.

A stint with former Weather Report leader Joe Zawinul (replacing fellow South Florida guitarist Scott Henderson) helped develop Bernsen’s unique guitar synthesizer talent. This resulted in some fine work on Zawinul’s 1992 Lost Tribes CD, and Bernsen’s independently released CD Calling Me Back Home featured another all-star roster the next year… Joe Sample, Toots Thielemans, Brandon Fields, and Abraham Laboriel. 

His house gig at a Fort Lauderdale club resulted in Bernsen’s next CD, Live at Tavern 213, and featured excellent improvisations and catchy melodies. 

Live in San Miguel de Allende was Bernsen’s follow up CD recorded at an international festival in Mexico.