Photo by David Andrako

Bernie Williams is certainly a man of many talents. He played for the New York Yankees for sixteen years and was a member of four World Series championship teams. And the above is only the tip of the iceberg of the many awards and impressive statistics that he compiled during his lengthy baseball career, the significance of which can be measured by the fact that the Yankees retired his number (51) in 2015. A plaque was also dedicated to him and placed in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium.

Last Tuesday Williams made his Café Carlyle debut and demonstrated that he is also a master of the music stage as well as the baseball field. This shouldn’t be surprising as in addition to his baseball accolades, his second album Moving Forward (which also featured guest appearances by such artists as Bruce Springsteen and Dave Koz) was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009. (Are you feeling humble yet?)

For his Carlyle debut, Williams (on guitars) was accompanied by Joel Rosenblatt (drums), Dave Anderson (bass), and Chris Clark (piano/keyboards). Don Harris was on trumpet and also served as music director. Williams would obviously know a lot about successful teamwork, and the jazz ensemble produced a number of magical selections opening with one of Williams’ own compositions – “African Blues.” Other selections included “Desvelado,” “Now What” and Stings’ “Fragile.” Much of the music of the evening, often combining both jazz and Latin elements, captured the energy and ambiance of an urban environment, while at the same time smoothing out and enlivening its more rough edges.

Williams struck me as a thoughtful man, which shouldn’t be surprising as he has also co-authored a book, Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Musical and Athletic Performance. He joked that as a ballplayer he would occasionally have sleepless nights playing his guitar while contemplating confronting players like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens the next day on the ball field. Williams made mention of a few nerves before the show. The evening may have proven the adage that nerves can enhance performance, since based on what I and the audience saw, Bernie and his band had nothing to worry about and much to celebrate.

Upcoming events at the Café Carlyle include Tony Award winner Lena Hall who will be returning to the Café Carlyle March 13-17 with a show entitled The Art of the Audition: From Falling Apart to Nailing the Part. The evening will feature songs from such Broadway hits as Cats, Sweeney Todd and Phantom of the Opera.

And Woody Allen performs with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band every Monday evening until June 11.

Bernie Williams performs at the Café through March 10. For an encore, Williams played a mellow variation on “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I never knew the song could sound poignant. Williams’ Carlyle debut was a home run.

The Café Carlyle is located at 35 East 76th St. in New York.