Bernie Williams joins Wayman Tisdale in a pretty small fraternity: former pro sports players who turn to smooth-jazz after hanging up the cleats/sneakers. The New York Yankees may not want him anymore (the former all-star has said he could still play), but he should be embraced by fans of Latin-tinged instrumental music. The Puerto Rico native’s sophomore effort is just as spirited and engaging as his debut CD from 2003, The Journey Within. Williams is a pretty good guitar player; he’s not just playing background chords.
Typical Latin rhythms and percussion dominate, but they are overlaid by a smooth-jazz sensibility, and Williams certainly knows his demo. “Go for It” drops the Latin stuff for a tailor-made smooth-jazz single, while “Chillin’ in the West” sounds exactly like it was discovered in the Acoustic Alchemy vaults. Williams calls on Jon Secada to sing on “Just Another Day,” which is also delivered in Spanish. The song is OK, in an anthemic, Ricky Martin kind of way. And I gotta mention a solo version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and a live recording of “Glory Days” with none other than Bruce Springsteen.