People often forget that the much maligned genre of “smooth jazz” is a tree that grew from seriously funky roots. The 1970s progenitors of the form such as Grover Washington Jr. The Crusaders, Roy Ayers, as well as funk bands who were proficient in instrumentals such as Kool & The Gang, War and The J.B’s formed the basis of the sound that would keep the term “jazz” on the charts and in mainstream consideration. The late great NBA star and musician Wayman Tisdale was unique for forging a second career as a bass player after his days as an NBA all star. As a bassist, his records have always had an underpinning of funk. But 2009’s “Fonk Record” took the funk from the bottom and put it on the top of his ouevere, and it’s a fitting coda to his career, cut tragically short by his fatal bout with bone cancer. But “Waymans Gotta Do It” and the other songs on that album ended Tisdale’s career in the manner any funkateer would want to, very funkily!
The song begins with a nasty funky and sweet guitar line, thick and played mostly on the lower strings, with a mix of bass notes and chords. After this four bar intro Tisdale’s vocoder voice sings a line and a furiously funky groove kicks in, in the ’80s style of funkateers such as Roger & Zapp. The groove features synthesizer bass along with Tisdale’s bass guitar slapping and popping a funky line. Tisdale sings “Let me play my funky bass for you” and plays the line on his bass guitar as he sings. Other guitar parts come in, along with organ flourishes. Then the song switches to a vocoder led part, which is somewhat sweeter in it’s funky tone, with a nice chord progression. This more melodic vocoder led section serves as the chorus. After that the song returns to the funk stew, with Tisdale slapping out some funky lines. Tisdale goes on to sing in praise of the groove, saying it’s so funky you’ll have to take a bath after you listen to it! As the song progresses Tisdale slaps out a thick, rich, muscular low bass solo as the track is supplanted by synthesizer strings. Tisdale confides, “Yall know I had to do this, cause they say I hadn’t been playing hard enough.” Which is itself a rejoinder to those critics who think “Smooth Jazz” was the soft way out!
Tisdale said that of all the music he played, the funk was the closest to his heart. This is understandable being that he was born in the ’60s and came of age playing in the late ’70s as his skill in basketball was also increasing. By the time he came to the music industry, there was no funk as such, just shards of the one hidden in smooth jazz, hip hop, house, garage, rock and contemporary R&B. It’s a testament then to Tisdale’s musical heart and the reinvigoration of the Funk sound and genre then that in 2009 he could drop the one so hard on his last album. “Wayman’s Gotta Do It” then is a fitting coda to a fine career and a fine life, that never got too far from “The One.”