By Val Vaccaro [photos courtesy of BerksJazzFest.com]
On Saturday, April 14th at 2pm and 7:30pm the 2018 Berks Jazz Fest will present two wonderful, special shows with The Caribbean Connection featuring Latin Grammy Award-nominated contemporary jazz guitarist Bernie Williams, saxophonist Elan Trotman, Latin Grammy Award winning flute player Nestor Torres, and steel pan virtuoso Kareem Thompson at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading.
Bernie Williams, a highly talented contemporary jazz guitarist, started playing guitar at the age of eight while growing up in Puerto Rico, and went to a performing arts high school. Williams was a NY Yankees baseball player for 16 years, a four-time World Series champion, and a five-time All-Star.
A renaissance man, Williams went from playing centerfield position to center stage in 2003, when he released his debut record The Journey Within which went to number three on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. Williams' sophomore record Moving Forward was number two on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts, and received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2009; the album included special guests Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada, and Dave Koz. Williams has also played with artists such as Paul Simon, Garth Brooks and many others. This past March, Williams performed a one-week engagement at the renowned Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel, a Rosewood Hotel in New York City.
Williams humbly signs under his autographed name the letters SDG "Solo a Dios la Gloria"...which in Spanish means "Only to God the Glory." Williams is also co-author of the 2011 book (published by Hal Leonard) called Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance.
In February, Bernie Williams appeared in an interview on NBC's New York Live TV show. Williams is raising awareness as a spokesperson for the nonprofit organization Breathless IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) which is a rare terminal lung disease. IPF took the life of Bernie Williams' father, who was instrumental in teaching him how to play both music and baseball. Williams said he was grateful to have the opportunity to pay tribute to his Dad's memory and to do a public service.
Elan Trotman, a native of Barbados, is a wonderful tenor saxophonist, and a dynamic and exciting performer whose music has been at the top of the Billboard charts over ten times. Trotman, a Berklee College of Music alum, is also Executive Producer of the Barbados Jazz Excursion. Trotman was honored as Jazz Artist of the Year by The Barbados Music Awards and the New England Urban Music Awards.
Trotman also founded the Never Lose Your Drive Foundation which provides funding for free weekly musical instrument instruction to students from the Headstart Music Program. Trotman is also a sports fan who has performed the National Anthem at games for teams from the Boston Celtics to the LA Dodgers.
He has performed with artists including Michael McDonald, Roberta Flack, Jonathan Butler, Keiko Matsui, Johnny Gill, Jeffrey Osborne, Sheila E, Marcus Miller, Will Downing, Earl Klugh, Jeff Lorber, Brian Simpson, Peter White and Peabo Bryson.
Nestor Torres, a fantastic flutist originally from Puerto Rico, has recorded 14 solo albums, received a Latin Grammy Award, 4 Latin Grammy nominations, and a Grammy nomination. He has has worked with Gloria Estefan, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente, the Cleveland, Singapore, New World Symphony Orchestras, and many other artists.
Fatefully, Torres was scheduled to receive the Latin Grammy award in the pop instrumental category with his CD "This Side of Paradise" on September 11, 2001. That pivotal moment inspired Torres as a composer and performer to be a change agent for peace, working with organizations such as ICAP - the International Committee of Artists for Peace.
In 1996, during the 100th anniversary of the Olympic Games and the multicultural city of Miami where he resides, flute player Nestor Torres had the special honor of carrying the Olympic flame to a ceremony on top of Miami City hall. Torres noted that the Olympic torch is a symbol of the Olympic spirit of peaceful competition.
Steel pan virtuoso Kareem Thompson, from Brooklyn, NY, began playing at the age of eight, inspired by his grandfather who played steel pan and was originally from Trinidad. During the 1990s, he was part of his family band "K.I.T Caribbean Connection." Thompson is a graduate of Berklee College of Music.
In addition to playing with The Caribbean Connection, Thompson is touring with Elan Trotman and trumpeter Etienne Charles. Kareem Thompson has also performed with other artists including Ludacris, Brian Simpson, Jessy J, and Mighty Sparrow. Thompson's current album is called Pan Roots Culture.