Lyle Mays  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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

He is co-credited on "This Is Not America" (1985).



While growing up, Mays had four main interests: chess, mathematics, architecture, and music. His parents were musically inclined – his mother was a pianist, his father was a guitarist – and he was able to study the piano with the help of instructor Rose Barron. She allowed Mays the opportunity to practice improvisation after the structured elements of the lesson were completed. At age 9 he played organ at a family member's wedding, and at age 14 he began to play organ in church. In summer camp he was introduced to important jazz artists.

The Bill Evans' album At the Montreux Jazz Festival and Miles Davis' album Filles de Kilimanjaro (both recorded in 1968) were important influences on his formation as a jazz musician. He graduated from the University of North Texas after attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He composed and arranged for the One O'Clock Lab Band and was the composer and arranger of Grammy-nominated album Lab 75.

After leaving North Texas, Mays toured with Woody Herman's group for approximately eight months. In 1974, he met Pat Metheny with whom he later founded the Pat Metheny Group. Mays has won eleven Grammy Awards with the Pat Metheny Group and has been nominated for four others for his own work.

In an interview with JAZZIZ magazine in 2016, Mays revealed his current career as a software manager.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Lyle Mays among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.


In the Pat Metheny Group, Mays provided arrangements, orchestration, and the harmonic and metric backbone of the group's musical signature. He occasionally performed on electric guitar as well. He played trumpet on the songs "Forward March" and "Yolanda You Learn" from the album First Circle (1984) and during the tour for that album.

His albums as a leader reflect a variety of interests. Lyle Mays and Street Dreams build on the content of the Pat Metheny Group, while Fictionary is a straight-ahead jazz trio session featuring fellow North Texan Marc Johnson on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

He also composed and recorded music for children's records, such as Tale of Peter Rabbit, with text read by Meryl Streep.

The Steppenwolf Theater Company of Chicago featured an assortment of compositions by Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny for their production of Lyle Kessler's play Orphans.

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).


Mays played a Steinway Grand Piano with built-in MIDI. He used an Oberheim 8 Voice Synth, a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Kurzweil K250, Korg DW-8000,Synclavier, and Korg Triton keyboards, among others.


On February 10, 2020, it was confirmed that Mays had died after a battle with a "recurring illness".

Select discography


  • Lyle Mays (Geffen, 1986)
  • Street Dreams (Geffen, 1988)
  • Fictionary (Geffen, 1993)
  • Solo: Improvisations for Expanded Piano (Warner Bros., 2000)
  • The Ludwigsburg Concert (Naxos, 2016)

Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays

Pat Metheny Group

Pat Metheny Group#Discography

Pat Metheny

As sideman

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lyle Mays" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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