Anyone who has seen the Pat Metheny Group in concert knows how the brilliant keyboard artistry of Lyle Mays is integral to their sound. While Mays has made his mark in the jazz idiom, he counts Bartok, Stravinsky, Berg, and Ravel among his musical inspirations.
As a key collaborator with Metheny on their multi-Grammy winning albums and record-breaking Pat Metheny Group tours, Mays found the time to step out to feature his own solo work. When he does, as his “Solo “ Improvisations For Expanded Piano” illustrated, Mays stands out as one of the masters of the instrument. While he is capable of keyboard pyrotechnics, Lyle knows just when to ease back and rely on just a melody to create a lyrical ambiance and emotional base.
Born in Wausaukee, Wisconsin, on November 27, 1953, Lyle grew up in a musical environment. His mother played piano and organ, and his father taught himself to play guitar by ear. His music teacher allowed him to practice improvisation after his lessons were completed. Lyle was recognized by his teachers for his exceptional talent and ability. He attended the University of North Texas where he composed and arranged for the One o'clock Lab Band and was the composer and arranger of their highly regarded “Lab '75” album. After leaving the University, Mays joined with Woody Herman's group touring in the US and Europe, for approximately eight months.
In 1975 he met Pat Metheny at the Wichita Jazz Festival and later founded the Pat Metheny Group. Mays composed, orchestrated, and arranged as a core member of the Pat Metheny Group on fourteen albums from 1975 to 2005. He started with the 1977 release “Watercolors”. He played piano, organ, synthesizers, and occasionally trumpet, accordion, agogô bells, autoharp, toy xylophone, and electric guitar. Lyle Mays was a distinctive and integral part of the Pat Metheny Group contributing heavily to their unique style.
Apart from the Metheny group, he recorded or performed in a trio with Marc Johnson (contrabass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), and Peter Erskine (drums). He formed the Lyle Mays Quartet with Marc Johnson or Eric Hochberg (contrabass), Mark Walker (drums), and Bob Sheppard (saxophone). Naxos Germany released the quartet’s live album “The Ludwigsburg Concert” recorded in 1993 and released in 2015. His collaborations included a diverse set of musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Earth Wind & Fire, Bobby McFerrin, Toots Thielemans, and Eberhard Weber.