2004 CJA Network Newsletter Featured Interview
When and why did you start developing a love for Jazz
Randy: When I was 15 I heard a recording of John
McLaughlin with an organ trio. I was fascinated to say
the least…I couldn’t really put it into words, I
just kept playing it over and over again…there was
something fresh going on.
Did you study Jazz guitar formally? I know you had
Clapton as a early influence! (Eric could really play
the blues!!) You also
have mentioned Wes Montgomery as another influence on
your guitar playing.
What caught your attention about these two great
Randy: I took lessons about the same time from a guy
named Bob Whitlock. He led me in the right direction as
far as improv/tunes and phrasing. I was a practicing
dude since age 12, he gave me lot’s to work on. Later
I went to the University of Miami and Miami/Dade junior
college. Both kept me busy.
Who do you consider some of the main influences on
your writing and
Randy: Wes Montgomery and his wonderful sense of
melody kept me intrigued as well as the Beatles……now
we’re talking about melody….to me writing is
capturing and developing that ….spark.
You played with bassist Jaco Pastorius as well as
became a good friend.
Tell us how you came to hook up with him?
Randy: He was 19 at the time ,I was a little younger
but we retrospectively we’re playing at the same clubs
at that time. We met at a club and said he like the way
I played….”Let’s play”.
Did Jaco influence your moving in the direction of
Randy: Absolutely……He still is the most
incredible musician I’ve had the privilege to play
with. He was so gifted. The music just poured out
him…..like a wire that had no rust on it.
Must have been also fascinating to play with Joe
Zawinul and his group!
Tell us more about playing with him and the Syndicate!!
Report…….they were musical heroes for me . Improv,
rhythms. It was like seeing black and white all
the time and then for the first time you see color. To
play in the group was ….huge. Musically, since it was
a lot of improv, was great. Sometimes better than others
of course. As in anything you enter into it with
pre/conceived ideas. Playing with Joe was a great
experience. He would see me in the bus reading my Bible
……he didn‘t know quite what to do with me…we got
into a few good raps….. He grew up in Austria during
world war 2 and saw a bit of everything…..to say he
was opinionated would be …..weak. I hope more than
anything, I was a good witness and I defer to Francis of
Assisi…(paraphrased)…“Preach the Gospel everywhere
and if necessary use words!
You are working on a acoustical “worship CD”
Share with us the details
of that project?
Randy: I started it 2 years
ago….and actually the idea started on a project I
produced for friend which featured John Pattatuci. We,ve
talked about doing a praise and worship
CD…but…but…but/??? I’ve got 2 originals and the
rest are arrangements of some of the beautiful melodies
out there now………. glorifying the LORD.
Randy, when you aren’t on the road you play for a
local Calvary Chapel.
Do you play as a part of the worship band?
Randy: I’ve been playing on
and off with the Ft. Lauderdale Calvary Chapel for 13
years now. Between music gigs and 5 years of a
professional pilot career, I play when I can. As it is
now , by the time I get back from Italy, it will have
been a 6 week adventure.
Share with us your most memorable musical experience
playing at a church
Randy: About 5 years ago we
had a gig at another church I played at. Son Coast
Christian Community in Boca Raton. The pastor, one of my
closest.. friends Chris Cowan…..put together a
Christian Jazz café. He really knew and sensed that the
music (Jazz) had a capacity to be spirit led…..and the
café would provide a rich environment for believers and
non/believers to gather. Theatre, testimonies and other
activities were encouraged…..it was cool and for 2
years, provided a wonderful witnessing tool to the
community. It was a blessing to be a part of that!
Do you find a spiritual connection in playing and
Randy: So many hats making
music………hopefully step one ….writing or playing
…is to be led by the spirit……..the discerning mind
should not be entering yet…there’s always plenty of
time later to say……”too fast, too slow, too loud
not enough this..not enough that.”
What style of music touches you most deeply?
Randy: Style of
music………..that’s difficult. The elements that
can be found in all styles of music, that touch me are-
a good groove……..a
melody………and a balanced harmony………you can
tell when it all “comes together“.
Didn’t yourecord a CD recently down in Mexico?
name of the CD is, “Randy Bernsen Live in San Miguel De Allende” and
the opening song is a
smokin’ jazz fusion version of the Beatles, “Come
Together”!!) Tell us
more about the recording!
Randy: The festival took
place at a few different venues. We recorded at all of
them. One was at a very old theatre…. the CD was
recorded 'live' elements of improv, groove...hop to
bop...guitar, violin, tabla, vocals, ample sample, el
basso and flute.
What about Latin and Afro-Cuban music? You live in
Miami… there is a
lot of that style of jazz being played there. Who stands
out in that style to
Randy: It’s amazing down in
Miami and I’m guilty of not going down there enough to
absorb it. Thru out the years I’ve worked with lot’s
of Latin instrumentalists…they/we have fused, amused
etc that explosive art form….it’s another language
(literally) I can only hope some of it by osmosis and
proxy have rubbed off on me.
Besides playing with your own band you recently have
been on tour with
the Jaco Pastorius Big Band! Big Band and Fusion
Guitar…now that’s a
Randy: Yes……what a twist.
Some of the band members have played together for 30
years plus. I remember playing with them and Jaco when I
was 17. The band at the time would back up artists from
Charo to Frank Sinatra. I remember Jaco asking to borrow
my guitar one time for a short road gig with Franki
Valli and the four seasons!….”who knew” A new
record is being put together now to be recorded next
What Jazz artists are you currently listening to
Randy: I still get that
“surprised feeling” listening to Herbie Hancock,
Miles Davis…..then there’s Joe Zawinul,…Wes
M………..and the hits keep coming!
What is your favorite church hymn and why?
grace……………..did you ever notice whenever
it’s played …..there’s a kind of reverence, a hush
that makes itself known.
Share with us a verse or passage
from the Bible that has helped shape
and influence your outlook on playing music.
Randy: Ps 46:10
Be Still and know that I am God………..
It’s a command , a calling , a
plea to man from their creator to #1 above all
else…..know God……… and to know God He gives us a
clue, a door……cease worldly activities so you can hear the still small voice.
information on Randy Bernsen can be found on his website: