Lyle Mays Has Died At The Age Of 66

Lyle Mays

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.”

The Pat Metheny Group (Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Mark Egan and Dan Gottlieb) on their first tour in 1977.

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:

22 thoughts on “Lyle Mays Has Died At The Age Of 66

  1. Wow. This is really sad. Also sad that the main stream media wont recognize this. If they do, I’ll be shocked. This man created synth and piano textures that were astounding. I certainly enjoyed his work. He will be sadly missed.

  2. I really enjoyed reading an interview he had in Keyboard Magazine back in 1986, complete with a recording of his music on one of those thin record-player compatible disks magazines had back then. He will be missed.

  3. “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.”
    This is so true, that it’s perhaps the even more sad part on this….. 🙁

  4. There isn’t a contemporary keyboard player that hasn’t felt Lyle Mays’ influence.

    And if there is, they’re not very good.

  5. Sad, so sad. There wasn’t another multi-keyboardist like him. The synergistic effect he and Pat Metheny had together on song composition was truly special. A great loss that too many will not realize.

  6. Very sad indeed! He was an enormous talent. I did get a chance to hear him play live a couple of times (Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny Group), but I really wish I had paid closer attention to his music over the years. I Just listened to the TEDx performance. It was amazing to say the least. Peace to him and his family.

  7. Another Giant becomes history. Certainly one of the top keyboard players and composer of the second half of the 20th century. And certainly a great innovator in the sounds he used, in perfect fusion with another great musician: Pat Metheny. His technique was equally impressive and is music will forever make dream of this golden era, of which he is one of the best representative. My sympathy to his family, his friends and all his fans.

  8. My heart is broken for the loss of such a musical genius. I have every Album from the Pat Metheny Group and have seen him more than 20-times in Concert. My favorite Pianist! Thank you for the music.

  9. Incredibly sad to hear of this. Been listening to the Pat Metheny Group since the early 80’s and seen them live so many times. The best recording I think Lyle ever made was with Metheny on the So falls Wichita Falls recording. An absolute masterpiece. RIP Lyle Mays. But RIP Nana Vasconcelas too, who was sadly even more obscure, but had worked not only on the Wichita recording but with Jon Hassell too. Both brilliant musicians. Both will be sadly missed.

  10. Try & look up the “Lizard” album from the North Texas State Lab Band way back in the 70’s. While still in school, he wrote most or all of the arrangements and “What Was” contains one of the most brilliant piano solos ever. RIP

  11. Took a while to sink in, what a huge loss. He’s probably the first guy that helped me really push my musical boundaries and to get me interested in anything outside the typical rock,metal and pop. I like that he realized the music industry had changed so much and that he felt confident about a career change! Great attitude.

  12. I cannot believe it took this long to find out Lyle Mays had passed. This man was absolutely one of the finest pianists I’ve ever heard and at 65 I’ve had the privilege of seeing many of the greats like Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, and George Shearing to name but a few, Lyle Mays was clearly of their creative and technical caliber. So very sad.

  13. The first time I heard San Lorenzo was on my car radio on WJZZ in Detroit circa 1977. I was mesmerized by that sound and have been a fan of Lyle and Pat ever since. No one played key boards or guitar like those two. Just heard about his death. What a loss.

  14. I first was exposed to the late great Lyle Mays via Pat Methany, as Im a rock/jazz/fusion guitarist from St. Louis MO. Lyle’s irory work was brilliant and he brought so much to the P.M. Grp. I loved his sounds, i.e the ARP, Oberheim MOOG, and other beautiful sounding synths and keys he used. He was a pioneer, an original. Your legacy will live on. Gods speed Mr. Lyle Mays

  15. I just discovered Moses, the Lawgiver…it makes me miss Lyle Mays that much more! Adored his brilliance, his music, his ability to stir every emotion in my soul

  16. I heard Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays back in the late 80’s at Duquesne University in Pgh,pa. I’ve been a loyal fan of both Pat and Lyle since that day. I ‘ve seen every PMG concert in Pittsburgh since then and I can honestly say no other musicians have had such an influence on me over my lifetime of playing. I was heart broken to hear of Lyle passing and will always remember his genius , and his intoxicating playing style and artistry RIP Lyle

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