Flipping through the channels last night I landed on the just released documentary, “The Wayman Tisdale Story.” If you don’t know the Tis’ tale, it’s quite remarkable. He was supremely blessed until, well, until he wasn’t.
Wayman grew up in the church-grew up is the operative term; at his maturity Tisdale was a 6’9” hunk of a guy with great hands, leaping ability, and a basket full of bball talent, enough to shepard him through an exceptional 12 year career in the NBA as a power forward-the enforcer position.
Tisdale was also a life long musician who grew up playing and singing in his father’s Oklahoma church. His electric bass playing had roots in 70’s soul, and his style fit neatly into the smooth jazz format that was popular when Motown Records released his first CD, “Power Forward” in 1995. In 2001, “Face To Face” reached the top of Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts.
Producers were smart enough to realize that Tisdale’s strength as a bassist lied in his ability to improvise in the instrument’s upper range, and generally paired him with another bass player (often the incomparable Marcus Miller) who would outline a tune’s harmonic structure and, along with drums and percussion, construct the groove.
Waymon Tisdale was also known as a truly good guy, and life was good for the big man until the day in 2007 when he found out that he had cancer in his knee. He sacrificed part of that leg in an attempt to beat it back, but cancer was an opponent Waymon Tisdale could not box out. On May 15, 2009, he passed, at the age of 44.
“The Wayman Tisdale Story” concludes with Toby Keith singing “Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song).” It’s a beautiful track, check it out.
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