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Basketball Player Turned Bigtime Jazzbo Wayman Tisdale Dead at 44

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Some years ago, we were enjoying a glass of wine with a buddy outside at the Biltmore Fashion Park when Wayman Tisdale came walking our way.

That one of us, to put it mildly, has never been a fan of smooth jazz.

Tisdale stopped in front of our table, and all 6-9 of him looked down at at us. Then came that big smile of his -- the full-faced grin that Suns fans from his era fondly recall.

"What, you don't like my stuff?" he said, friendly as can be. "Tell me this then. What bass players do you like?"

We listed a bunch of them, from jazz greats Charles Mingus and Ray Brown to R&B's James Jamerson (of Stevie Wonder fame) and Bootsy Collins to Jack Bruce and Paul McCartney of a rock-and-roll bent.

"Cool," Wayman Tisdale said. "Mind if I join you guys for a second."

The second turned into half an hour or so.

Turns out he was a student of the history of his instrument, and he loved the same guys we had mentioned, and plenty of others.

He said he hardly considered himself in their class, but that he knew what his audience liked to listen to. Tisdale was so humble about it that we immediately felt badly about our thinly veiled putdown of his music.

Before he left, we told him how much we had enjoyed his enthusiasm for basketball and for his second career as a professional musician. I will never forget his parting words to us, said with that smile:

"Hey, maybe I'll go real, real deep on my next CD for you guys, and sell about 28 copies. Or maybe I won't."

With that, Tisdale sauntered off into the dusk.

The news of his death earlier today at age 44 -- a victim of cancer -- broke a lot of hearts, ours included.




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