Composer and keyboardist Lyle Mays, best known for his long partnership with Pat Metheny, has died at the age of 66.
His death was announced via his Facebook page:
“It is with deep sadness that I share that my uncle, Lyle Mays, passed away this morning in Los Angeles surrounded by loved ones, after a long battle with a recurring illness.
Lyle was a brilliant musician and person, and a genius in every sense of the word. He was my dear uncle, mentor, and friend and words cannot express the depth of my grief.
“Lyle was one of the greatest musicians I have ever known. Across more than 30 years, every moment we shared in music was special.,” noted Pat Metheny. “From the first notes we played together, we had an immediate bond. His broad intelligence and musical wisdom informed every aspect of who he was in every way. I will miss him with all my heart.”
Lyle Mays (November 27, 1953 – February 10, 2020) and Pat Metheny pioneered a unique style of jazz fusion, integrating elements of jazz, rock and musical traditions from around the world. His pioneering work has been recognized with eleven Grammy Awards.
Mays performed with a MIDI-fied Steinway Grand Piano and a variety of synthesizers, notably an Oberheim 4 Voice synth. He also played trumpet, including on the Pat Metheny Group’s First Circle.
In addition to his work with the Pat Metheny Group, Mays released several solo albums and performed with dozens of other artists, including: Joni Mitchel, Rickie Lee Jones; Earth, Wind & Fire; Bobby McFerrin; and Toots Thielemans.
Mays also recorded a series of children’s albums for Rabbit Ears Entertainment, including collaborations with Jeremy Irons, Max von Sydow & Meryl Streep.
In his later years, Mays worked as a software manager. In a 2016 interview with Jazziz, Mays explained that “It’s not that I have a real desire to leave the music industry – I kind of feel like the music industry has left me. Or left all of us.”
“I’ve gone where the economy’s gone,” he added. “People don’t want to pay for music anymore. I could be bitter about that, but I have other interests and other skills, so I’ve moved on.”
Lyle Mays On Video
This video captures a TEDx performance by Lyle Mays and Friends:
The performance highlight’s Mays wide-ranging interests, creating music based on physics equations, Feynman’s speech patterns and more, using improvisation, algorithmic composition, live video mixing, and a custom designed linked laptop network.
This live performance of Song for Bilbao features Mays combining piano and synth layering in his extended solo:
Finally, in this video from 1985, Mays discusses his stage rig and his approach to incorporating synthesizers into his performances: