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Lyle Mays

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.

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Year in Review

Most Read Album Reviews: 2021

Read "Most Read Album Reviews: 2021" reviewed by Michael Ricci

All About Jazz tracks how often an album review is read, and the reviews listed below represent our most popular in 2021. Eberhard Lyle Mays Reviewed by John Kelman August 20, 2021 XXXX Wollny / Parisien / Lefebvre / Lillinger Reviewed by Phillip Woolever The Complete Live at the Lighthouse Lee Morgan Reviewed by Mike Jurkovic July 26, 2021 Music is Our Friend: Live ...

Album Review

Lyle Mays: Eberhard

Read "Eberhard" reviewed by Mario Calvitti

La prematura scomparsa di Lyle Mays nel febbraio 2020 ha privato il mondo di uno straordinario musicista, troppo poco considerato al di fuori dell'importantissimo contributo da lui dato all'interno del Pat Metheny Group, dove ha rappresentato l'ideale complemento del chitarrista dal 1977 al 2010 prima di decidere di abbandonare definitivamente la scena musicale per dedicarsi professionalmente al mondo del software, un altro dei suoi numerosi interessi. Se i periodi trascorsi a fianco di Pat Metheny ne hanno ...

Album Review

Lyle Mays: Eberhard

Read "Eberhard" reviewed by John Kelman

When pianist, keyboardist, synthesist and composer Lyle Mays passed away at the far too young age of 66 following a long battle with a recurring (but, to this day, undisclosed) illness in February 2020, it was a major loss for his fans. It was an especially deep body blow to those who'd followed his decades-long work as performer and compositional collaborator with Pat Metheny in the guitarist's critically and commercially acclaimed Pat Metheny Group. Mays had been largely ...


Lyle Mays Goes Solo

Read "Lyle Mays Goes Solo" reviewed by Mike Brannon

From the 1995-2003 archive: This article first appeared at All About Jazz in May 2001. What if you were to look beyond the obvious of what you normally do each day, and you learned to see beyond? What if your mind, and ears were always open yet you stayed deeply focused and unwavering from your concentration on the moment? For Lyle Mays, it was to pull that which is not obvious from the piano to create ...

Album Review

Lyle Mays Quartet: The Ludwigsburg Concert

Read "The Ludwigsburg Concert" reviewed by Mario Calvitti

Conosciuto principalmente come cofondatore del Pat Metheny Group, alter ego e spalla del ben più noto chitarrista, il tastierista Lyle Mays è sempre rimasto un po' in ombra rispetto al partner, complice anche un carattere decisamente schivo e riservato che ne ha spesso limitato le uscite pubbliche. Anche le sue apparizioni discografiche al di fuori del PMG si contano sulle dita di una mano, includendo anche questo ultimo doppio CD che è la registrazione di un concerto da lui tenuto ...

Album Review

Lyle Mays Quartet: The Ludwigsburg Concert

Read "The Ludwigsburg Concert" reviewed by Chris M. Slawecki

Intentionally or not, keyboardist Lyle Mays seems to maintain a public profile that's lower than low. His most famous engagement is his tenure in a group named for someone else (The Pat Metheny Group), and The Ludwigsburg Concert is only his sixth solo release since his eponymous solo debut for Warner Bros. Jazz in 1985, and his first since Solo: Improvisations for Extended Piano for Warner Bros. in 2000. (Mays does appear in the Metheny Group for The Way Up ...

Album Review

Lyle Mays Quartet: The Ludwigsburg Concert

Read "The Ludwigsburg Concert" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

He has been referred to as Pat Metheny's alter ego, in the way that Billy Strayhorn was to Duke Ellington. Pianist/composer Lyle Mays was born with perfect pitch in a tiny rural hamlet of Wisconsin. Had it not been for his family's strong affinity for music, Mays may have had little exposure in that environment. Mays wrote, or co-wrote, with Metheny, almost all of the original Pat Metheny Group catalog from their second ECM release, Watercolors (which included Eberhard Weber) ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Self Produced



Geffen Records


Street Dreams

Geffen Records


Lyle Mays

Atlantic Jazz




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