Word has come that Lyle Mays – an extraordinary pianist, composer, bandleader, and a longtime member of the Pat Metheny Group – has died after a recurring illness. Nate Chinen, in an obituary written for WBGO, gets to the heart of Mays's creative persona:
Mays was a musician of clear, analytical temperament, but within the dimensions of his style — a personal amalgam of post-bop pianism, classical impressionism, Brazilian music, electronic music, rock ‘n’ roll and much else besides — there was always a core of emotional expression. The radiant, affirmative character of The Pat Metheny Group can only be understood as a byproduct of Mays’ distinctive chemistry with Metheny, his fellow Midwesterner, musical omnivore and tireless technophile.
Metheny, too, had words to share:
R.I.P. Lyle Mays (1953-2020)— Pat Metheny (@PatMetheny) February 11, 2020
It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of our friend and brother, Lyle Mays (1953-2020). He passed today in Los Angeles after a long battle with a recurring illness, surrounded by loved ones.https://t.co/goeTusSnpC pic.twitter.com/2SOYIXUw84
I consider myself fortunate to have seen Mays play a few times with Metheny: both in a "classic" PMG lineup with Steve Rodby, Paul Wertico, Pedro Aznar, and Armando Marcal, and later in the context of the large ensemble that toured Metheny's Secret Story album. By some strange fluke, I sat in the front row at both of those concerts, a proximity that offered unusual insight into the intensity, sympathy, and joy that went into these performances, and the deep, deep connection Metheny and Mays shared.
I've thought about Mays many times over the years, as Metheny has carried on with a wide variety of projects without Mays since their final collaboration in 2005. I hadn't heard about his illness, but am glad to hear that his suffering has ended. His music, without question, will live on.