Wayman Tisdale: Hang Time (2004)
The former NBA star forward turned bassist roams familiar territory on his sixth album, Hang Time, playing mostly originals by himself and keyboardist Jeff Lorber. In courtside terms, the big man needs a better playbook and more support from his teammates.
Unlike Shaq the rapper, Tisdale the jazz musician is no novelty act. His playing, which bears a strong resemblance to Stanley Clarke's and showed real promise on 1998's Decisions, is better than average here. But like some of Clarke's lower-rung efforts, this is too wrapped up in packaging to appreciate. Stripping a layer or two out of the arrangements would give it more groove and glory.
Tisdale has a strong lead tone and is pretty much the featured player throughout. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not possible to tune out the predictable beats, mindless vocals and vapid sax vamps that pollute the soundscape. It's a common enough ploy to cover inadequate players, but Tisdale doesn't need the refuge and ought to come out from behind it.
"Ready To Hang" is a radio-appropriate upbeat introduction to the voice of his bass, and there's enough promise in his rapid-fire embellishments to hope for good things once he gets down to business. But it never really happens, as he spends too much time vamping off choruses on the slow stuff and getting shouted down when things get funky. He also simply doesn't display enough innovation to place him among today's top fusion bassists, although one suspects that talent might be there.
There's usually some gospel/spiritual influence to Tisdale's work and he delivers one of his best performances on the closing "Glory Glory," assembling a surprisingly sophisticated melodic solo throughout that builds well off the heavy pop chorus and sax almost in spite of them. Similarly, "My World" is a nicely melodic mid-tempo piece where he interacts well with a range of players contributing short riffs one at a time.
Sports media types are raving about this album and Tisdale's fans will unquestionably enjoy it, as many will judge it solely on his playing. But it would be intriguing to see where he could take things if he chose to break out of the radio play format for once. At the least he should take a cue from Clarke and do a live recordingtwo such albums by the "School Days" master are excellent listens for general audiences and aficionadosthe next time he hits the road.
Track Listing: Ready To Hang; Creative Juices; Crusin'; Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now; My World; Hang Time; Better Days; Everything In You; Even When; The Time Is Here; Off Into It; Glory Glory
Personnel: Wayman Tisdale, vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, bass instrument, programming; Jeff Lorber, guitar, keyboards, percussion, programming; Dave Forman, guitar; Jason Rahn, trumpet, flugelhorn) Jimmy Varner Soul, keyboards, programming; Alex Evans, bass instrument; Michael White, drums; Jeff Byrd, percussion
Record Label: Rendezvous
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock