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Wayman Tisdale: Way Up

Sure, Wayman Tisdale was an All-American power forward at the University of Oklahoma who went on to play 12 fruitful seasons in the NBA. But with his new CD and seventh overall, Tisdale has just clinched another title: best smooth-jazz bass player on the planet. There may be more technically superior lead bassists out there-Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley come to mind-but no one wraps himself around picture-perfect smooth-jazz melodies and plays his instrument with as much joy as the hulking six-foot-nine superstar. To miss Tisdale’s contribution to the urban smooth-jazz landscape is to get only part of the picture.

Tisdale, who is 42, is happily stuck in the 1970s and had a number-one song a year ago with “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” He’s got another contender now with Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down on It,” and he de-funks Sly and the Family Stone’s funk classic “If You Want Me to Stay” into a strolling midtempo ditty. But it’s on his original tunes where Tisdale shows his depth, a remarkable feat for a musician who’ll gladly tell you he can’t read music but sure knows his way around the fretboard.

Whether offering a wall of sound with simultaneous sax and bass choruses or creating his own bass leads, Tisdale is remarkably low-key on this outing with pieces that are introspective and almost chilled-out in nature, like “Shape of Your Heart” with Jeff Lorber on keys and “Conversation Piece” with Bob James. But not all’s mellow, of course. As you’d expect from a tune George Duke wrote for him, Tisdale goes all out on “Tell It Like It T.I.S.,” sure to be a crowd-pleaser on stage.

Originally Published