Lyle Mays— The Neglected Star



Of the now some five Lyle Mays solo lps, the first two which emerged in 1986 and 1988, and now have been reissued, tell an important tale of just how big a contribution Lyle made to the real early peak of the Pat Metheny Group (think Still Life Talking, Offramp, Letter from Home, etc.).

The first of these lps, which is simply self-titled has an all star cast of musicians on it including Alex Acuna and the great Bill Frisell on guitar (see especially the track Ascent). The production on the second one is better and is more diverse or eclectic in style including a four part sequence called Street Dreams, from which comes the lp title.

If in turn you are wondering why the sound of the early Unity Band materials (Pat with his newest group) sound only occasionally like early Pat Metheny Group lps, these two early Mays albums will tell you why— it lacks Lyle’s additions to the lyricism and synchronicity. This, I suspect, is one reason why the later Unity Band releases involve the addition of an excellent keyboard player, which fills up the voids in the sound in, for example, the first of the Unity Band releases.

If one really wants to see where all that synchronicity between Pat and Lyle was going after more than twenty years of playing together, check out their final masterpiece— The Way Up (quite rightly the album of the year when it came out). My sister and I went all the way to NY to see them perform that masterpiece in the Beacon Theater— what a concert…..

It is right to say that the Mays Self-Titled lp also owes a good deal to that star jazz fusion group— Weather Report. Listen to Ascent and then go listen to the Weather Report classic Black Market. Obviously, Lyle had been listening in the 70s to those guys, including Zawinul on keyboard and the peerless Pastorius on bass.

If like me, you are missing the mid to late Metheny and Mays stuff, and you have not listened to these two Mays albums, now would be an excellent time to snap them up— they are inexpensive second hand. They will remind you just why it was in the 70s and 80s we were prepared to drop everything and go almost anywhere to see Pat and Lyle and the great Pedro Aznar and many others (in my case this meant going to Columbus, Louisville, and NY). This music is moving, uplifting, highly-skilled melodic jazz, full of joy and joie d’vivre…. in those days going to a concert like that was like going to the best revival service ever—- you were lifted up with many others, and discovered you got caught up in love and wonder and praise, and didn’t mind that you ended up standing with the others for three straight hours….

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