Bernie Williams surprised Glen Cove concertgoers on Friday night, when he made an unexpected guest appearance at the weekly Downtown Sounds Concert Series.
The former Yankee center fielder performed several songs with headliner and Glen Cove local, Richie Cannata.
“We loved Bernie when he was a Yankee,” said Maria Rodriguez of Glen Cove. “My family’s been big Yankees fans since I was a little girl.”
Rodriguez, who has attended the Downtown Sounds concerts regularly since it began in 1997, was thrilled to learn that Williams was making a special appearance.
While still playing for the Yankees, Williams launched his jazz music career, releasing his first album, “The Journey Within” in 2003 and a second, “Moving Forward” in 2009. He now plays at venues across the country.
Music and baseball were equal passions of Williams since childhood, and he approaches both careers with a similar mindset.
“There’s not as big of a difference as you would think,” Williams said about playing baseball and playing guitar. “Everything comes out through preparation.”
During Friday night’s performance, Williams played electric guitar on several songs. Cannata is Williams’ musical director and the two share several band members. Cannata’s son Eren, 26, is the singer in Williams’ band.
“[Richie’s band] has taken me under their wing,” Williams said. “I’m a rookie in their league, and it’s a blessing to be associated with them.”
The Downtown Sounds Concert is held on Village Court in Glen Cove, every Friday night in July and August at 7 p.m.
Richie Cannata’s performance is a highlight of the summer concert series, drawing more than 2,000 audience members each year. Cannata, who plays tenor and soprano saxophones, has a long career of touring with artists like Billy Joel and the Beach Boys.
“[Playing in Glen Cove] is very special because after I play tonight, I’m going to see these people tomorrow at the bank and the post office and the gas station,” said Cannata, owner of Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove. “It’s important they know I’m supporting our city.”
One of the evening’s highlights included the band’s performance of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.”
“[The concerts] are really something nice; everybody enjoys themselves” said Helen Graziose, of Glen Cove. “And now Bernie’s here, so that just made my husband’s day.”