Feb 10, 2020: Lyle Mays, of Pat Metheny Group—Obituary

Share This:

Lyle Mays via his Facebook page

Lyle Mays, a jazz pianist and composer, and longtime member of the Pat Metheny Group, died Feb. 10, 2020, 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”

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

Related: Musicians we lost in 2020

Best Classic Bands Staff

12 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  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”.

    Reply this comment
  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.

    Reply this comment
  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!

    Reply this comment
  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.

    Reply this comment
  7. clusterchord
    #7 clusterchord 14 February, 2020, 14:46

    Wichita Falls – a forever album for me..

    R.I.P. Lyle

    Reply this comment
  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. ❤

    Reply this comment
  9. Hez
    #9 Hez 27 June, 2020, 12:04

    Just a wonderful wonderful musician. He changed my life in a way. His music became my music as never before. I will listen to it to my dying day..

    Reply this comment
  10. Lar-Bear
    #10 Lar-Bear 11 February, 2022, 10:45

    I think the standout musician in this clip is … (who else?) … Jaco.

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.