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Review: 'Wayman Tisdale Story' offers inspiration

The Associated Press, Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 7:15am (PST)

"The Wayman Tisdale Story" (Rendezvous Music/Mack Avenue)

"The Wayman Tisdale Story" is the larger-than-life tale of a three-time college All-American, Olympic gold medalist and 12-year NBA veteran who after he gave up hoops turned to his "first love" — music — and became a contemporary jazz star with several chart-topping CDs. But it's more than that.

It's also the inspirational story of a "gentle giant" — the son and brother of noted preachers— who always kept his trademark smile and faith in a courageous battle against the bone cancer that eventually claimed his life at age 44 in May 2009.

The CD/DVD package includes a recent documentary, written and directed by Brian Schodorf, that includes some of Tisdale's last interviews in the weeks before his death, as well as footage from his final concert in Memphis, Tenn., when despite having lost half of his right leg, he still thrilled the crowd with his funky electric bass playing and singing.

The documentary includes interviews with family members as well as with friends from the sports and music worlds whose lives he touched — from Michael Jordan, A.C. Green and University of Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs to saxophonist Dave Koz, bassist Marcus Miller, and country star Toby Keith.

The accompanying CD's 13 tracks include highlights from seven of Tisdale's nine albums — with such guest stars as saxophonist Koz and keyboardist George Duke — as well as the previously unreleased tune "Slam Dunk" that mixes smooth jazz and funk. The self-taught Tisdale, who played his instrument upside-down and backwards because he was left-handed, was able to turn his electric bass into a lead solo voice on both funky, good-time groove songs like "Let's Ride" and more romantic melodies like the soft smooth ballad "Gabrielle" and the faith-inspired hymn "Glory Glory."

Both the CD and the DVD close with Keith singing his poignant Grammy-nominated tribute song, "Cryin' For Me (Wayman's Song)." The heartfelt lyrics note that Tisdale showed the singer how he's supposed to live and die, with the refrain: "I'm gonna miss that smile."

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: On "Rebound," the title track of Tisdale's last album, released after his cancer diagnosis, the self-styled "happy music man" begins with an inspirational lyric using a basketball metaphor ("When life tries to get you down, it's the perfect time for a rebound.") It segues into a gradually intensifying feel-good smooth jazz groove driven by Koz's mellow sax that offers a message of hope in the face of life's setbacks.

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