Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns have welcomed such acclaimed musicians as Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross to the stage at the Lounge at the Palms. But Monday night was the first performance by a five-time American League all-star and four-time World Series champ.
Former New York Yankees great Bernie Williams knocked it out of the park, to use baseball parlance, during an unbilled performance before a packed, late-night crowd. Williams’ performance was a surprise, but his guitar virtuosity was not. Williams is an excellent musician, having been educated at the exclusive Escuela Libre de Musica in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He mixed music with sports and became one of the most prominent students on the island.
Embracing music full time after his playing career ended in 2006, Williams has recorded two jazz-rock fusion albums — “The Journey Within” and “Moving Forward.” The second album featured guest appearances from Bruce Springsteen, Dave Koz and Jon Secada.
One of Williams’ best friends in the music community was one of his schoolmates in San Juan, the great drummer Pepe Jimenez, who has been with Santa Fe for more than a decade. The two connected over the weekend when Williams was in town, joined by keyboard great Joey Melotti (who backed Barry Manilow during Manilow’s residencies at Las Vegas Hilton and Paris Las Vegas) for a corporate gig at Encore Theater on Sunday. That appearance was tied to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in town this week.
Williams was announced by Santa Fe keyboardist and vocalist Jamie Hosmer, who said, “I have a whole list of this man’s stats, but he doesn’t want me to read them. Let’s just say he has had his number 51 retired by the Yankees, and he holds the record for most RBIs ever in the postseason.” All true.
Williams then played a jazzy version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” an original composition, and joined the full band for a torrid take of Bill Withers’ “Wishing Well.” He’d never played a public show in Las Vegas, and was elated afterward.
“It’s amazing — these guys are amazing,” he said after the show, which ended after midnight. “I love it. I love this energy. I want to do it again.”
They call these nights “The Healing,” and this Yankees great is welcome, any time.