2016 OKC Jazz Ambassador

Wayman Tisdale


Sometimes a word can mean one thing your entire life, and then circumstances alter to provide a totally different interpretation.

For NBA-icon-turned-musical-star Wayman Tisdale, rebound meant to grab possession of a basketball during a game.

But in 2007, that all changed. Tisdale was diagnosed with bone cancer after he fell down a flight of steps and broke his leg. Knee replacement surgery and months of chemotherapy followed. And rebound took on a new significance.

As many before him, he came through the disease with a renewed perspective: “It really showed me what’s important in life, man. It’s not getting as many houses as I can, not driving the biggest cars,” he says.  “What’s important is family and being healthy.” 

That reinvigorated joy and sense of purpose pervades Rebound, the bass guitarist’s eighth album and his third on Rendezvous Entertainment.  “People are going to feel different after listening to this record. They’re going to be happy. There’s going to be a good feeling,” Tisdale says. “Rebound definitely has a beginning, a body and an ending and that’s what I wanted to do. That’s why the record starts with the song ‘Rebound,’ to capture people and bring them in. A Japanese voice before the second verse of ‘Rebound’ says ‘I’ve rebounded and you can rebound also.’ That’s what the message is. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Rebound takes the listener on a journey with gratitude as the ultimate destination. Others might, understandably, be angry at God for the illness, but Tisdale feels nothing but thanks and praise. “He didn’t have to allow the bone to break, a lot of people find out too late,” Tisdale says. “I look at everything from a spiritual standpoint, my father being a Baptist minister before he passed. Through your toughest times, you’re going to find out who you are as a person and I got to really see what type of person I was.”

That spirit is expressed on CD closer “Grateful,” stirringly delivered by gospel great Marvin Sapp. “When he was a newcomer in gospel group Commission, he used to stay at my house and sleep in the Lazy Boy,” Tisdale recalls with a robust laugh. “I needed somebody to complete this record and I couldn’t think of a better person than Marvin. I knew he would give it the emotion and really bring it home the way it needed to be brought home and he did a beautiful job.”

Another old friend—and fellow Oklahoman-- Toby Keith also makes an appearance. In his self-appointed role of Ambassador of Old School, Tisdale covers an R&B classic on each album. Here, he and Keith team up for the Barry White chestnut “Never Gonna Give You Up.” “I was literally on the internet looking at a lot of old school songs, listening to Earth, Wind & Fire and some old school Isley Bros., and I got a call and Toby says, I got the song we need to redo: ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ It still didn’t register until the studio and I mean, my mouth was wide open. I could not believe what was coming out!”

Another highlight is first single, “Throwin’ It Down,” which announces that Tisdale is back in the building. He co-wrote the upbeat, jaunty tune with Darren Rahn, who also plays sax in the track. “It’s a good feeling; it’s saying ‘I’m coming out. I’m back.’”

While Tisdale, who lives in Tulsa with his wife and four children, says his return was never in doubt, there were tough days during his treatment, days when “I wasn’t doing anything, just pretty much existing, trying to get to the next day,” he says.  During days such as those, solace came from a somewhat surprising source: his 2003 CD, 21 Days. “I wrote that whole record in three weeks and I was always astonished about what happened and what came over me to write that record,” he says. “In the end, it turned out I had written the record for me to get through these times.”

The cancer came on top of Tisdale’s decision to make his health better by getting lap band surgery. “I could always lose 50-60 lbs easy, I’m an athlete,” he says. “My problem was keeping the weight off and this time, it really helped me to control my appetite. I just want to control the lion and I’ve had a great time, it’s been the best thing I’ve done.”

That’s quite a statement for someone who has accomplished so much. Although Tisdale showed promise on the bass from an early age, his tremendous athletic talent initially overshadowed his musical leanings. He played for the University of Oklahoma Sooners from 1983 to 1985 and became the first player to have his jersey retired.  All three years at Oklahoma, Tisdale was named an All American Team, and in 1984 he played on the U.S. Olympic team which brought home the gold. In 1986 the Indiana Pacers selected Tisdale as the No. 2 overall draft pick behind Patrick Ewing.  For the next 12 years, Tisdale left his mark on the NBA with the Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, scoring more than 12,800 points and pulling down more than 5,000 rebounds in a 12-year career.

 Before he retired after the 1997 season, Tisdale had already made the transition toward a career in music. In 1995 he released his debut CD, appropriately titled Power Forward, which climbed to No. 4 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart and, like all of his subsequent efforts, crossed over onto the R&B charts. His subsequent albums In the Zone, Decisions and Face to Face all landed in Billboard’s Top 10, with 2001’s Face to Face going to No. 1, as did his last album, Way Up.  Tisdale has scored two No. 1 radio hits with “Can’t Hide Love” and Hang Time’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”

Tisdale will be the first to say that each album defines a moment in time and Rebound is no exception. “This record is definitely a reflection of me and where I’m at,” he says. “If you’re looking for a Way Up, this isn’t Way Up. Each record has its own personality and its own edge and I think Rebound will carve its own niche.”


Festival Ambassadors

Jim Brown
General Manager, Civic Center Music Hall

Barbara Burton
Educator & Musician

Charles Burton
Educator & Musician

Brent Brewer
Brewer Entertainment

Peter Dolese
Executive Director, Arts Council of Oklahoma City

Brian Gorrell
Director of Jazz Studies, University of Central Oklahoma School of Music

Chris Hicks
Director of Operations, University of Central Oklahoma Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM@UCO)

Willa Johnson
Oklahoma County Commissioner

Mike McAuliffe
President & CEO, Oklahoma City Events & Entertainment

John Pettis
Oklahoma City Ward 7 Councilman

Chase Rollins
General Manager, Aloft Hotel

Deborah McAuliffe Senner
President & CEO, Allied Arts

Eddie Walker
Executive Director, Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra