February 5, 2005

Wayman Tisdale - Bringing Back The Old School

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

No man better spans the divide or better makes the connection between ‘Old School’ soul and Smooth Jazz than bass supremo and former NBA star Wayman Tisdale. His latest release Hang Time is testimony to that and nowhere was it better demonstrated than the opening night late show of the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 (WHSJC). For an audience of a certain age, revved up with the anticipation of seven days wall to wall music and all ready to party, Wayman Tisdale was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered.

WaymanTisdale_live.jpgAs he opened with track #1 from his latest release Hang Time, the aptly titled ‘Ready To Hang’, the audience were immediately where he wanted them to be, right in the groove. He tested out their old school credentials by sending out the opening of ‘Joy and Pain’ only to have them holler back ‘Like Sunshine And Rain’ with only the slightest encouragement. He started them off with the chant from the Gap Bands ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ and it came reverberating back with passion. Having got the crowd all checked out and warmed up he kicked right in to the Smokey Robinson classic ‘Cruisin’, also from Hang Time, and audience participation was guaranteed.

Tisdale was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he still lives with his wife Regina and their four children. Like his life, his music is based on his faith, having discovered the bass guitar while watching the bass players in his hometown church where his father, the late Rev. Louis Tisdale, was a minister. Subsequently his father bought him a kids guitar with which he began to teach himself to play and he hasn’t stopped playing since.

WaymanTisdale_sports.jpgAs many will know, Tisdale was a big star on the basketball court well before he was a star in Smooth Jazz and R & B. He played for the University of Oklahoma Sooners from 1983 to 1985 and was part of the gold medal winning US Olympic Team in 1984. OU handed him the ultimate accolade when he became the first basketball player to have his jersey, number 23, retired. On leaving college the Indiana Pacers selected Tisdale as the No. 2 pick in the draft, behind Patrick Ewing. That was in 1986 and for the next 12 years Tisdale graced the NBA with the Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. In his twelve year professional career he scored over 12,800 points and pulled down more than 5,000 rebounds. Wayman Tisdale still has links to the University of Oklahoma with the commentary he provides for the men’s team during the basketball season.

He retired from basketball in 1997 but well before that he had already started to make the transition toward a career in music. In 1995 he released his debut CD, the aptly named Power Forward. It went to #4 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts and made a successful crossover into the R&B charts.

It was a track from that first release, ‘Gabrielle’, a tune named after his daughter that was one of the high points of Tisdale’s performance on the WHSJC. He also dipped into his back catalog to reinforce the old school vibe with the Isley Brothers ‘Summer Breeze’, taken from his 1996 release In The Zone. When he reprised this number as part of his Thursday matinee show, Jeff Golub joined him on stage to play guitar.

Unexpected collaborations between the artists created many memorable moments during the WHSJC and none more so than during Tisdale's final number of the show, the McFadden and Whitehead classic, and track #4 from Hang Time, ‘Ain't No Stoppin Us Now’. 60 minutes into the show, and with the audience in a near frenzy, it was just perfect for the occasion. When it seemed it just couldn’t get any better up stepped Jonathan Butler to add vocals in what turned out to be an exhilarating guest appearance. Just at that moment, with the cream of today’s smooth jazz artists on board, and 1800 passionate fans there to groove with them, ‘Ain't No Stoppin Us Now’ became the anthem for the entire week, a vibe, an expression that typified not just what the WHSJC was all about but what the fans were about too. Seven days that exuded a passion for the music so tangible it sent shivers down the spine.

Read more about the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 right here in the coming days and weeks.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? Do you have a favorite Smooth Soul Survivor that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at February 5, 2005 5:27 PM