Ardsley Guitarist Gil Parris Teams up With Bernie Williams on a New Song

The Grammy-nominated Ardsley guitar virtuoso Gil Parris has released a new song with longtime collaborator, former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams.

Gil Parris knows his way around a guitar. With six albums released over a two-decade-plus career, Parris has toured across the country both as a solo artist and alongside acclaimed musicians, including Toni Braxton, Diane Schuur, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. In fact, Parris has become such a fixture of the contemporary music scene that the instrument company Reverend has released four versions of The Gil Parris Model Signature Guitar, which was called “one of the coolest artist signature guitars of all time” by Guitar Player Magazine. Parris is also a longtime collaborator with former MLB player, Bernie Williams, with whom he just released an upbeat new song, “Good Friends.”

Long before meeting Williams, Parris had been deeply immersed in entertainment. “My father was a stage actor and, growing up, I saw him with Danny DeVito and Mickey Rooney. As a little kid, I was around all of this,” says Parris, who attended Ardsley High School. “I just loved the whole showbiz music thing, so I feel like it’s all related.”

After finding that he was preternaturally proficient in guitar during a childhood lesson, Parris received a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, traveled across Europe in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and, after sending a demo tape to Guitar Player Magazine, was spotlighted by the publication. This kicked off a successful career that led to Parris’ being signed by RCA/BMG and appearances on NBC’s TODAY show, BET’s Studio Jams, the YES Network, and on the DVD release of Masters of the Stratocaster.

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As Parris thrived as a solo artist, his trajectory shifted alongside the evolving economic dynamics of the music industry. “Once the internet and Napster kicked in, that’s when I decided to start being more of a sideman,” says Parris. “So, I got a gig with Blood, Sweat, and Tears and I ended up touring with them for a year and a half. That was a crazy time; I had around 43 flights in a single month.” Parris would also play alongside greats like David Mann, Billy Vera, and Bobby Caldwell.

One of these sideman gigs was where Parris met someone who would become one of his primary collaborators: Bernie Williams. “I was working with Diane Schuur, a two-time Grammy-winning vocalist and pianist, who is amazing,” says Parris. “I remember playing with her at the Luna [nightclub] for a week, in 2007, and Bernie Williams came down to see us and hung out, which was very cool. We hit it off right away and he came back the next week. I brought him one of my books and my instructional video because I knew he was working on his [guitar] playing then.”

This chance meeting kicked off a nearly 20-year-long relationship that brought the duo to the stages of B.B. King’s Blues Club, The Iridium, and The Ridgefield Playhouse, among many others, as well as several guitar festivals and appearances on Good Day New York, Fios1, and WPIX. “We have a lot in common. We are the same age and we both started out at third base, although that’s where our sports similarities end,” says Parris with a laugh. “We are just two guys getting together and eating and playing. He’s such a great guy and has such a great work ethic. It’s been a lot of fun for both of us.”

Williams similarly cherishes their bond. “We had this great relationship from the get-go. We have played in so many different places and he has been very generous with his time and his knowledge … I have learned a lot about playing the guitar from him,” Williams says of Parris. “It’s a great place to be to have someone out there you can aspire to — it keeps me focused on being better every time.”

Bernie Williams (left) and Gil Parris are close on and off the stage.
Bernie Williams (left) and Gil Parris are close on and off the stage. Photo courtesy of Gil Parris.

The duo’s new song, “Good Friends,” is a prime example of this strong working relationship. “The song is very upbeat, happy sounding,” says Williams. “It reflects on all the experiences we have had together over the years, and I think it’s a great testament to our friendship.”

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Parris echoes this sentiment. “We shot the video [for “Good Friends”] at Bernie’s home. He felt comfortable there and I felt that this song was a good entrance to getting some of our music together out there,” says Parris. “We both have other projects, but when we get together to play, there is this sense that it is something really special.”

“[The song] reflects on all the experiences we have had together over the years, and I think it’s a great testament to our friendship.”
Bernie Williams

Those interested in catching some of Parris’ singular licks can often find him on Wednesdays performing at Ron Blacks Beer Hall, and on Fridays playing at Freebird Kitchen and Bar, both in White Plains. In June, Parris also joined several big-name musicians for a tribute to Billy Joel at The Ridgefield Playhouse. Yet no matter where Parris performs, he probably won’t be far from Williams. “We have this unspoken thing where we can just look at each other and know, so when we play together it’s very complementary,” says Parris. “It’s not about who has the best solo. It’s more that the parts we play are better because we are playing them together. Two friends growing together; what could be better than that?”

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