Bernie Williams

Moving Forward

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Because this second album by the former New York Yankee outfielder was released a month before the passing of NBA Star-turned-popular jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale, there are bound to be some comparisons made. It's a logical starting point, because both were shining lights in two very different fields who launched their musical careers while they were still popular athletes, and part of Tisdale's friendship with Bernie Williams was mentoring the center fielder/classically trained guitarist on how to make a successful transition. Tisdale's plucky contribution to the jangling, soaring, opening title track is also one of his last recorded performances. The connection is there, but stylistically, the two took very different approaches. While Tisdale's playful lead bass vibe found a great niche in smooth urban jazz and stayed there his whole musical career, the wild worldbeat and deep jazz versatility Williams displays on Moving Forward affords him many more genre options. He draws on his Puerto Rican heritage to stir up some zesty and playful, percussive Latin energy on "Ritmo de Otono" (with Dave Koz) and a sizzling, improvisation-heavy romp through Pérez Prado's "Que Rico el Mambo." There's also a Latin connection with Cuban-born pop singer Jon Secada, who jams with Williams on English and Spanish covers of his trademark '90s hit "Just Another Day." The guitarist also has fun with the tracking, seeing no discordance in following the seductive exotica of "African Blues" (complementing his own acoustic lines with the electricity of Spyro Gyra's Julio Fernandez) with the sweet, strumming acoustic pop gem "Chillin in the West" (which revs into a rocker courtesy of Jeff Golub) and then a tender, emotional take on a song near and dear to him, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Williams also leans from pop instrumental towards the expansive jazz fusion side in a single bound on "Go for It," with the help of electric guitar great Mike Stern. Williams saves his biggest superstar surprise for last, tacking on a live recording of him playing acoustic with Bruce Springsteen as the rocker exults in his (and Williams' "Glory Days"). This dynamic, unusually eclectic set proves that while the four-time World Series champ's glory days are behind him as a ballplayer, he's Moving Forward towards a stellar career in music.

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