It is with a heavy heart this morning that I learned that former NBA basketball player and jazz great Wayman Tisdale has died after a long battle with cancer. Ironically, I was playing his latest release “Rebound,” and I was speechless. I have followed Tisdale professionally since 2003 when he performed at the 15th annual Juneteeth Music Festival at the Tulsa Convention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tisdale again in 2005 when he headlined Jazz on Bell Street in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I was nervous about interviewing him that day, but his friendly, jovial spirit set me at ease. It was apparent that he loved jazz and playing the bass guitar. He has been instrumental in acting as a mentor and has collaborated with many jazz notables such as Jonathan Butler, Peter White, Dave Koz, Dallas saxophonist Tom Braxton, Tulsa saxophonists Grady Nichols and Eldredge Jackson.
Tisdale was all about having a good time, and one of the things I will remember most about him is his love for old-school R&B music. In each album release, Tisdale always included a favorite track. For example, he collaborated with Oklahoma country star Toby Keith, who offered an interesting perspective to the Barry White classic tune, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
“I got this call from Toby, and he says, ‘I got the song we need to redo: ‘Never Gonna Give You Up,'” Tisdale said in an interview I had with him last year. “We got to the studio, and Toby started singing. My mouth fell wide-open. We were just blown away. I could not believe what I was hearing! It was great. This guy can sing.”
There’s so much more I could say, but one thing is certain: Tisdale’s contributions both on and off the court will be missed. Rest in peace.