Wayman Tisdale picks Thornton Winery for his return to the stage

Published on March 24th, 2021

By Jim Dail

 Wayman Tisdale has always been ready for a challenge. He won a gold medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics, had a 12-year NBA career and has achieved an enormously successful jazz career. Nothing would prepare him for the challenges he has faced this year.

After falling in his home and injuring his leg, doctors discovered he had bone cancer. As a result, he canceled his tour and began the process of both recovering from the injury and receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer.

“This is the longest layoff I’ve ever had,” said Tisdale, who will play his first major date since his accident on Saturday at Thornton Winery. “This was a major thing and I just had to pay attention to it. It’s been difficult but everything is going great.”

One thing that’s for certain is he’s glad to be back to playing music live because the time off, while it gave him the chance to spend time with his family, left him a little anxious.

“I went stir crazy,” he said. “The hardest thing for me was the fact I couldn’t go out there and play. The walls were starting to talk to me.”

It helped that he’s dealt with injuries before, something that most jazz musicians don’t deal with in the same way.

“Having played in the NBA and gone through injuries really helped me because I was able to deal with the mental side of the rehab,” he said.

Besides the knee injury and the cancer treatment, there is at least one nagging thing Tisdale has to deal with, and that’s his fingers.

“I had to get back into playing shape because I started getting blisters on my fingers and I thought that had been behind me,” he said. “I’m glad to be going back out there though because I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

That said, he will be making some adjustments.

“I feel well enough now to go out and perform, but I’m not able to move around like I usually do so I’ll take it a little easier and just let the energy of the music keep things going,” he said.

And when Tisdale gets things going, there is something unique about it, particularly because of his instrument of choice, the bass.

“To take the bass guitar and make it a lead instrument I had to play around
with the string gauges,” he said. “It’s a piccolo set-up with extra long
strings to give it that clean, distinct, melodic sound.”

While the bass as a lead instrument is certainly somewhat unique, it’s been a part of his life since he was young.

“I started playing bass in church and I just always loved the great solo bass players that were out there,” he said. “I kept right on playing all through my basketball career and then signed my first contract while I was still in the NBA.”

Just as he enjoyed playing ball in front of people, he has a true love for being in front of people playing his music.

“Live is my thing,” he said. “I approach music with the idea that I’m coming
after you with everything I have.”

While he has spent much of 2007 recovering from his ailments, he hasn’t just been sitting around.

“I have been working on some new stuff so now it’s going to be about finding the right combination of songs and other people to collaborate on the album with me,” he said. “I’m always going to bring in some other people to play on my albums because it really infuses a lot of energy into the songs.”

Like many other jazz artists, he’s found quite a number of fellow musicians who are eager to join him on record.

“Bass music lends itself to working with outers because it has a melodic approach,” he said. “You just have to be careful what you put with it. You can’t have other instruments completely drown it out or cloud the feeling.”

Speaking of feelings, Tisdale is feeling happy these days, as well as feeling blessed. It’s an outlook that has served him well his entire life.


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