Bernie Williams Collective at The Cafe Carlyle - New York City Article

Bernie Williams Collective at 
The Cafe Carlyle

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Bernie Williams Collective at The Cafe Carlyle

Mar 7, 2018

Bernie Williams Collective
The Café Carlyle
35 E 76th Street, (212) 744-1600
Through Saturday March 10

The San Juan-born guitarist and his quintet are the first completely instrumental act I can remember seeing at the Carlyle. However, in their onstage chemistry, Mr. Williams and his chief collaborator, trumpeter Don Harris, will remind Carlyle regulars of Herb Alpert and Lani Hall, especially in that Mr. Harris frequently uses a harmon mute, which gives his horn an especially vocalized sound, almost like he’s singing along with the leader’s guitar. Like Chris Botti, some of Mr. Williams’s music sounds almost excessively polished on his two albums, The Journey Within (2003) and Moving Forward (2009); he would do well to consider recording his long-overdue next album live at the Carlyle, where the same music sounds warm, live (in multiple senses of the word), and spontaneous. This is contemporary jazz with an agreeable Latin flavor, in fact, on opening night there was almost a textbook demonstration of different flavors and rhythms of Pan-American music: from Brazilian bossa-nova (“Desvelado”), Puerto Rican salsa (“La Salsa em Mi”), Cuban mambo (the Havanese standard “Que Rico el Mambo”), and Chick Corea’s “Spain,” which incorporates traditional Spanish forms (including but not limited to the pasodoble).
In this highly satisfying set, Mr. Williams and Mr. Harris also included a straight up major key blues, “Now What,” the sort of thing that the Jazz Messengers might play, and their major romantic ballad moment was Sting’s “Fragile,” truly a standard for our times. I’ve only seen Mr. Williams previously in larger, concert-sized venues, but what makes his show here on 76th Street so special is the intimate give and take with the audience as much as the rhythm section (pianist Chris Clark, bassist Dave Anderson, and drummer Joel Rosenblatt). It was Mr. Williams’s encore, a moving and highly personal treatment of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” done as duet with Mr. Clark and encouraging the crowd to sing along in the second chorus, that offered the only reminder that Mr. Williams used to do something other than play the guitar.

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photo: David Andrako

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Author: Will Friedwald
Photography by: STEPHEN SOROKOFF

Author: Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.

New Books:

THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP VOCAL ALBUMS (Pantheon Books / Random House, November 2017)