Wayman Tisdale: Decisions

Having been straightjacketed on previous efforts into an ill-fitting hip-bop/urban suit, former NBA star and bassist Wayman Tisdale makes a giant leap forward with Decisions (Atlantic 83129-2P; 55:23). Although the album’s publicity material touts this departure as a move into the smoother sounds of adult contemporary jazz (and several tracks support this assertion in slick style), there’s much more hidden beneath the surface. Beginning with the album’s fourth track, (“Mexicoco” a stripped-down, acoustic colored rhythmic treat featuring Marc Antoine) Tisdale’s accomplished musicianship, instincts and willingness to experiment emerge and bloom. Where “Sultry Summer” is a bare-bones, off-kilter duet in darkness with Marcus Miller on fretless bass, the delicate ballad “My Only” spotlights a pretty, soulful vocal by Lalah Hathaway. “African Prince” achieves a wiry, rolling multi-cultural feel through Tisdale’s rhythm section, and “Miles Away” packs the punch of a rollicking old soul horn section. Subtract a few well-executed but undistinguished smooth tunes from the beginning of the record, and you’ll find that Tisdale has made the right Decisions, and gone a long way toward erasing that “former NBA star” tag to let his musical talent speak for itself.