Wayman Tisdale

The Fonk Record

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Fifteen months after former NBA star and smooth jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale died of cancer at the age of 44, his wildest, most uncharacteristic recording surfaces. The result of a 12-year collaboration with Derek "DOA" Allen that was finished shortly before his death, The FONK Record, is exactly what it says it is: a wild ride into the glory days of funk, when Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire, and the Gap Band ruled the scene. Tisdale ("Tiz" here) and DOA formed a studio band called the Fonkie Planetarians that laid down these 11 cuts of musically sound (read: stone-cold killer), sonically fine grooves. Setting off with "The Introduction," Tiz and DOA play almost everything but "Tha Hoinzz." Tisdale sings with a crew of backing vocalists (heretofore known as "tha Suckaz") to bring the album's conceptually retro stomp into full view while laying some sass down in the cut. "Let's Ride" features the entire band on a stone-cold nasty vamp with a vocal performance from George Duke and a horn arrangement adopted, in part, from various tracks on Funkadelic's One Nation Under a Groove. The funkmaster himself, George Clinton, is overdubbed with Tiz on "This Funk Iz 4U." With Perry Hardin's guitar's comping with the back-and-forth vocal crew, Tiz's basslines and Arthur Thompson's drums create a monstrous on-the-one hypnotic beat with stone-soul vocal harmonies in the backdrop. Each of these tracks is carefully sequenced, manned by enough production and instrumentalists to create a solidly consistent celebratory journey. Even ballads such as the babymaker "Sunshine" and "Been Here Before" (featuring a dynamite lead vocal from late Temptations' vocalist Ali Woodson) never let the feeling of communal joy ebb. "Spread tha Butta," "Neck Bones," and the closer, "Wayman's Gotta Do It," deliver mightily on the promise of their titles. Ultimately, Tiz and the Fonkie Planetarians have given us one of the most danceable, butt-tastic recordings of 2010. Tisdale could have gone in any number of directions for his final outing; the fact that he chose a party record as his last will and testament -- simply because he'd always planned to do one -- says plenty about both the man and the musician. Some may argue that this final set is his best work, and it would be hard to argue with them.

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