Bernie Williams Performs at 52 Park

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

As part of the BronxWorks 40th Year of Celebration repertory of activities, the organization collaborated with the southeast Bronx community group 52 People for Progress to stage a concert by the Gil Parris/Bernie Williams Quartet featuring baseball and music legend Bernie Williams.  Joining the quartet was special guest Erik Piza, a well-known percussionist who played congas.

Williams and Gil Parris, whose extensive background includes a stint with Blood, Sweat & Tears, were as smooth together on stage as Williams was in the outfield with Yankee right fielder Paul O’Neill.  Their complementary playing styles brought back memories of many guitar greats, including Kenny Burrell, B.B. King, and Carlos Santana.  Along with Erik Piza, bass guitarist Kip Sophos and drummer Thierry Arpino rounded out the ensemble.

Staged in the Miranda Theater of 52 Park, located on Kelly Street between Leggett Avenue and Avenue St. John, the concert was one in a series held by 52 People for Progress in 2012.  Since its revitalization in the 1980s, the park has hosted over 190 performances by a host of Latin music greats.  A mural featuring some of those legends has been created on a wall behind the amphitheater, which came about as a result of the organizing efforts of people who lived in the Longwood, Woodstock, and Hunts Point neighborhoods of the southeast Bronx.

BronxWorks board member Bill Aguado was a key figure in organizing the concert, working in partnership with Stephen A. Mendez and Al Quinones, leaders of 52 People for Progress.

The Quartet has expressed an interest in staging another performance at 52 Park in 2013, according to Mr. Mendez.  “The crowd was elated to have Bernie Williams, a native of Puerto Rico and a Yankee great, perform,” said Mr. Mendez.  The diverse audience was dominated by area residents, many of whom grew up in the neighborhood after their parents or grandparents migrated to the Bronx from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic in the 1940s and 1950s.  Over 200 people came out for the performance despite overcast skies and the threat of rain.

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