Face to Face

Wayman Tisdale

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Face to Face Review

by Jonathan Widran

The former NBA star, killer bass player, and fun-loving character with the bright smile came into his own with 1998's brilliant Decisions, which marked his first project since retiring from basketball. On this solid but slightly less spectacular follow-up, he seems caught on the fence between slick, soulful smooth jazz with heavy R&B grooving, and friendly vocals that could blend in on any urban station. Not surprisingly, the instrumentals carry the price of admission. The retro-soul-minded "Loveplay" features Nick Moroch's swirling acoustic guitar lines behind Tisdale's thoughtful melody, which duets in certain passages with Steve Cole's always rich sax lines. Tisdale and Cole keep up that magic on "Brand New," a thoughtful romance featuring a chorus with Cole doing a full horn section along with Tisdale's brooding lines. "Brazilia" is a breezy slice of exotica floating Tisdale's bass over Moroch's gentle acoustic guitar breezes; "spacey tropicality" would be a good definition of this vibe. The best non-vocal is a simmering, brassy cover of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Can't Hide Love," which features some of Tisdale's most muscular playing over a rising three-piece horn section. The vocals almost seem designed to be showcases for groups and singers that need more exposure. "When I Opened My Eyes" features Out of Eden, "If I Ever" is led by Ericka Smith, and "Stay" has Carnell Murrell. Tisdale himself does an admirable job singing on the title track, yet all of these vocals have a certain similar "bedroom eyes ballad" vibe to them; nice but not thrilling by any means. Overall, a solid commercial mixed bag, but somewhat lacking the energy and diversity that made Decisions one of that year's best.

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