Lyle Mays

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Lyle Mays
Lyle Mays.jpg
Background information
Birth nameLyle David Mays
Born(1953-11-27)November 27, 1953
Wausaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedFebruary 10, 2020(2020-02-10) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, Jazz fusion
InstrumentsPiano, keyboards
Years active1975–2020
LabelsECM, Geffen, Warner Bros.
Associated actsPat Metheny Group

Lyle David Mays (November 27, 1953 – February 10, 2020) was an American jazz pianist, composer, and member of the Pat Metheny Group.[1][2] Metheny and Mays composed and arranged nearly all of the group's music, for which Mays won eleven Grammy Awards.[3]


While growing up, Mays had four main interests: chess, mathematics, architecture, and music. His mother Doris played piano and organ and his father Cecil, a truck driver, taught himself to play guitar.[4] His teacher allowed him to practice improvisation after the structured elements of the lesson were completed. At age nine he played organ at a family member's wedding, and at age fourteen he began to play in church.[5] In summer camp he was introduced to jazz pianist Marian McPartland.[3]

Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival and Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis (both recorded in 1968) were important influences. He graduated from the University of North Texas after attending the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.[6][7][8] He composed and arranged for the One O'Clock Lab Band and was the composer and arranger for the Grammy Award-nominated album Lab 75.[9]

After leaving North Texas, Mays toured with Woody Herman's group for approximately eight months. In 1975 he met Pat Metheny and later founded the Pat Metheny Group. Mays won ten Grammy awards and was nominated twenty-three times.[10]

In an interview with JAZZIZ magazine in 2016 Mays said he had been working as a music software manager because of changes in the music industry.[11]


Mays composed and arranged as a member of the Pat Metheny Group, playing piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, and occasionally trumpet, accordion,[12] agogô bells,[13] autoharp,[14] toy xylophone,[15] and electric guitar.[16] He composed and recorded children's audio books, such as East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Moses the Lawgiver, The Lion and the Lamb, The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, and Tale of Peter Rabbit with text read by Meryl Streep.[3] Metheny's and Mays' compositions were performed by the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in a production of Orphans by Lyle Kessler.[17] He composed classical music, such as "Twelve Days in the Shadow of a Miracle", a piece for harp, flute, viola, and synthesizer recorded in 1996 by the Debussy Trio.[18]

Apart from the Metheny group, he performed in a trio with Marc Johnson and Peter Erskine and formed the Lyle Mays Quartet with Eric Hochberg, Mark Walker, and Bob Sheppard.

An amateur architect, he designed his sister Joan's house and was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.[19]


Mays died in Los Angeles, at the age of 66, on February 10, 2020 "after a long battle with a recurring illness".[20]


As leader[edit]

With the Pat Metheny Group

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ "NTSU Lab Band Record on Sale". Denton Record-Chronicle. October 2, 1974. p. 22. Retrieved December 5, 2014 – via open access
  2. ^ "Grammy Nomination to Lab Band Album". The Courier-Gazette. January 30, 1976. p. 2. Retrieved December 5, 2014 – via open access
  3. ^ a b c "UNT Division of Jazz Studies". University of North Texas. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  4. ^ Keepnews, Peter (February 12, 2020). "Lyle Mays, 66, Pat Metheny Group Keyboardist, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "Lyle Mays". Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  6. ^ "The State: Telephone directory for Baldwin and Woodville, Wisconsin: electronic facsimile: Browse Text". Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  7. ^ "UNT alumnus Lyle Mays to serve as guest artist in February - North Texan". Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  8. ^ "Really Good Music". Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  9. ^ "February 2006 - Division of Jazz Studies". Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  10. ^ "Jazz Keyboardist Lyle Mays Dies At 66". February 11, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  11. ^ "Lyle Mays". JAZZIZ Magazine. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  12. ^ "Pat Metheny Group – Letter From Home (Geffen, 1989), Credits".
  13. ^ "Pat Metheny Group – First Circle (ECM, 1984), Credits".
  14. ^ "Pat Metheny Group – Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978), Credits".
  15. ^ "Pat Metheny Group – The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005), Credits".
  16. ^ Search Pat Metheny - The Roots Of Coincidence - Speaking of Now Live
  17. ^ Rich, Frank (May 8, 1985). "Theater: Steppenwolf Presents 'Orphans'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  18. ^ "Twelve Days in the Shadow of a Miracle Sheet Music by Lyle Mays". Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  19. ^ Honisch, Thomas (January 25, 2007). "Lyle Mays interview". All About Jazz. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  20. ^ West, Michael J. (February 11, 2020). "Lyle Mays 1953–2020". JazzTimes. Retrieved February 27, 2020.

External links[edit]