Lyle Mays, of Pat Metheny Group, Dies at 66

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Lyle Mays via his Facebook page

Lyle Mays, a jazz pianist and composer, and longtime member of the Pat Metheny Group, died Monday, Feb. 10, in Los Angeles, Calif., after a long illness, at age 66. The announcement was made on Metheny’s website. The guitarist called his collaborator of 30 years in the jazz fusion group “one of the greatest musicians I have ever known.”

As a member of the Metheny Group, whose early work was for the ECM label, Mays performed on numerous albums that topped the jazz charts. Many of their releases also charted on the Billboard Top 200.

Mays earned 11 Grammy Awards in his career.

The Pat Metheny Group collaborated with David Bowie on a 1985 single, “This is Not America,” for the soundtrack to the film The Falcon and the Snowman. The song reached #14 in the U.K and #32 in the U.S. (Watch the video below.)

The minimalist cover of the Pat Metheny Group’s 1978 debut album

Besides the Bowie collaboration, Mays performed with other rock and pop artists. He was a member, with Metheny, Michael Brecker, and Jaco Pastorius, of Joni Mitchell’s 1979 touring band, which resulted in her live 1980 Shadows and Light double album. (Watch them perform a Mitchell favorite below.)

Metheny’s full statement: “Lyle was one of the greatest musicians I have ever known. Across more than 30 years, every moment we shared in music was special. 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.”

Watch the Pat Metheny Group perform in 1988

Fellow Metheny Group member Steve Rodby said, “I had the great privilege of having Lyle in my life for decades, as an inspiration and as my friend. As anyone who knew him and his music will agree, there will only be one Lyle, and we all will continue to appreciate his soulful brilliance, in so many ways.”

Watch Mays on piano performing with Joni Mitchell on her 1979 tour

Watch the Bowie-Pat Metheny Group collaboration, “This is Not America”

Related: In the 1960s, jazz singles regularly became pop hits

Mays was born Nov. 27, 1953, in Wausaukee, Wisc.

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  1. Jefjam
    #1 Jefjam 11 February, 2020, 01:22

    I believe the movie which featured the collaboration with Bowie was titled “The FALCON and the Snowman”.

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  2. biff441
    #2 biff441 11 February, 2020, 01:39

    Lyle Mays will be missed. A true jazz great. BTW, This is not America was written for ‘The Falcon and the Snowman” not Eagle.

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  3. Paulo
    #3 Paulo 11 February, 2020, 10:57

    I love his rendition of Stelle by Starlight, in Buenos Aires…so unique…RIP

    Reply this comment
  4. Chrisstyles
    #4 Chrisstyles 11 February, 2020, 16:02

    RIP Lyle. Thank you for all of the beautiful music you have given us over the years. His music really touched me, and added to my life. His playing on third wind was one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard.

    Reply this comment
  5. biff441
    #5 biff441 11 February, 2020, 18:04

    Hi Jeff, I wasn’t piling on. There were no comments when I posted. Thanks for your excellent features!

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  6. Martin
    #6 Martin 11 February, 2020, 18:19

    Hey Lyle, your piano was pure magic. We met in Stuttgart, remember? Please reincarnate soon! Good bye.

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  7. clusterchord
    #7 clusterchord 14 February, 2020, 14:46

    Wichita Falls – a forever album for me..

    R.I.P. Lyle

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  8. Geoff-Jiefu
    #8 Geoff-Jiefu 21 February, 2020, 07:32

    Thank you for the music to my ears and heart, dear beautiful musician and juggler, Lyle Mays ~ may your music always be heard as the river of time flows on. ❤

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