Wayman Tisdale was one of those rare talents who made his mark excelling at two different careers. Most sports fans know that Tisdale was an outstanding basketball player at the University of Oklahoma and later an all-star in the NBA for many years. But in addition to playing power forward he also played the bass and enjoyed a successful run as a jazz recording artist during, and after, his NBA career. Sadly, Tisdale died of bone cancer in 2009 at the relatively young age of 44.
I’ve never heard any of the early jazz albums Tisdale recorded, always dismissing them as probably being nothing more than innocuous “Smooth Jazz,” but after reading about The Fonk Record, a project he was working on before he passed away (and released in 2010), I was intrigued. I had considered ordering a copy online but was happily surprised to find the CD here in Bangkok at the Gram music shop in the Emporium. This album, as its title suggests, steers firmly into funky waters, and was clearly a labor of love for Tisdale. It features legendary funk masters George Clinton and George Duke, along with other kindred musicians, gloriously dealing up the “fonk”. Besides being a lasting musical memorial to Tisdale, this is simply a joyous, unrestrained musical romp; fun and funky stuff to make your rump shake, and a few slow jams to make you smile. One description from the label put it quite succinctly, calling this “a wild ride into the glory days of funk, when Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire, and the Gap Band ruled the scene.” Say no more. You know need this one.
I enjoyed The Fonk Record so much that I may even explore some of the other CDs in Tisdale’s catalogue, even if they are closer to smooth jazz. Hell, they can’t be that bad. Tisdale was obviously a talented musician and loved what he did — both on the court and in the studio — and further evidence of that can be seen — and heard — next month when the Wayman Tisdale Story, a special CD/DVD package, is released. This set will include a music CD with 13 tracks and a 66-minute documentary about Tisdale’s life, in his own words.