He was part of the Pat Metheny Group for 27 years, not only playing all kinds of synths and keyboards, but also co-composing with Pat, orchestrating and arranging, like the unforgettable, timeless “James”, “Au Lait”, and “Are You Going With Me?” from the group’s 1982 “Offramp” LP. His 1988 album “Street Dreams” on Geffen Records, is still among my all-time favorite albums. His songs always had a dreamlike quality to them, like a soundtrack written for a movie. Just listen to the first two cuts on the album, “Feet First” and “August”, the second with Bill Frisell, Marcus Johnson, and Vicki Randle. It is beauty in perfection. Other pieces, like the solo piano and keyboard “Chorinho”, come straight out the classical canon.
The Pat Metheny collaboration “Possible Straight” on the other hand is a fun-making blues romp, and his signature piece reminiscent of all of his wonderful material for the Metheny Group, is the hauntingly soulful fusion gem “Before You Go”, for which he also used a full orchestra. And I think his piano playing on the title track, which is divided into four pieces, is amazing and shows his deep appreciation for Bill Evans (Pat and Lyle wrote the song “September 15th”, the day Bill Evans died, for their joint collaboration, the excrutiatingly brilliant “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls”, ECM, 1981). Lyle only released a handful of albums under his own name and recorded with a lot of different artists. He is featured on albums by Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bobby McFerrin, Toots Thielemans, and Betty Buckley.
Yesterday, Lyle Mays has left this earth at age 66.