He was initiated into its magic by the flamenco sounds that his Merchant Marine father played on an instrument that he brought home from Spain. Williams took up the instrument himself, and attended a special performance arts school on the island when he was 13. While ultimately it was his athletic talents that took ascendancy (he signed with the Yankees at age 17), his guitar went with him on the road, and the sounds of his strumming could often be heard emanating from the team clubhouse.
In 2003, Williams demonstrated his more-than-amateur interest with the release of an album, The Journey Within. His subsequent success is mirroring the accomplishments of his athletic career: His second album, Moving Forward, featuring Bruce Springsteen among other guest artists, debuted as Billboard’s Number Two Contemporary Jazz album and was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009.
So Williams’ upcoming concert at the Bardavon on Saturday, May 14 should be an exciting musical event of interest to Latin music aficionados as well as Yankees fans. It’s also for a good cause: All proceeds will benefit Good Counsel, a not-for-profit organization that provides transitory housing for homeless pregnant women and the new moms and their babies, up to a year after the birth. The homes are located in Westchester and Rockland Counties, Staten Island, the Bronx and Riverside, New Jersey; unfortunately, the home in Poughkeepsie, which opened in 1992, closed in 2008 because of lack of funds related to the recession, according to Joe Quattrocchi, fund development specialist for the organization.
Quattrocchi still maintains an office in the city, and he is a fan of the Bardavon, so after he and his colleagues attended a benefit by Williams in Rockland County – it funded scholarships founded in honor of two baseball players who had been killed in the region – and approached him about doing a concert on behalf of their organization, and he said yes, the Bardavon seemed like the perfect venue. The concert, Quattrocchi added, is the first appearance by Williams in the mid-Hudson Valley, offering fans a rare opportunity to see the multi-talented former ballplayer right on their home turf.
This year, Williams plans to record a third album, and a book that he co-authored, titled Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance, will be released in July 2011. Published by Hal Leonard Books, it promises to shed light on the fascinating connection between musical artistry and athletic performance, from the master himself.
For more about Williams, visit www.bernie51.com. Tickets for the concert, which range from $30 to $75 (for $200, you get to meet Williams), are on sale at the Bardavon; visit the box office at the Bardavon or UPAC or call (845) 473-2072 or (845) 339-6088.