Lyle Mays in 1988
Photo by Michel Delsol/Getty Images
GRAMMY-Winning Jazz Keyboardist Lyle Mays Dies At 66
Co-founder of the Pat Metheny Group and GRAMMY-winning contemporary jazz keyboardist and composer Lyle Mays has died at the age of 66. According to a statement released by the Pat Metheny group on Tuesday (Feb. 11), Mays passed away on Monday in Los Angeles after "a long battle with a recurring illness."
Mays' niece, Aubrey Johnson, took to Twitter to relay the news on Monday evening writing, "It is with great sadness that I share that my uncle, Lyle Mays, has passed this morning in Los Angeles surrounded by loved ones.... He was my dear uncle, mentor, and friend and words cannot express the depth of my grief."
Introduced to jazz as a teenager, Mays was born into music. His parents played and passed down piano and guitar, while simultaneously he began learning and playing the organ. The Wausakee, Wisconsin native had already been doing public performances by the time he was nine.
A composer, orchestrator, pianist, guitar and trumpet player, Mays joined forces with guitarist Pat Metheny to create the Pat Metheny Group in 1974. The band was comprised of Mays, Metheney, and bassist and producer Steve Rodby, with Mays and Metheny taking the lead on most of the group’s compositions. Ultimately, the group went on to win 10 GRAMMYs and continually redefine what is known as contemporary jazz through their heavily fluid and genre-bending style.
In a statement released, Metheny is quoted commenting on the life and legacy of his late friend and collaborator, saying, "Lyle was one of the greatest musicians I've ever known. Across more than 30 years every moment we shared in music was special," he said. "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."
In addition to being a renowned artist in the right of the Pat Metheny Group, Mays also contributed solo efforts to recordings with Joni Mitchell and Earth, Wind, and Fire amongst many others. Mays contributed compositions and recordings for the children’s record, The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, he worked alongside Metheny to score several films including "The Falcon And The Snowman," and was also a self-taught computer programmer and architect.
Off the strength of his progressive, standout recordings alongside Pat Metheny, Mays won a total of 10 GRAMMYs and received 23 award nominations throughout his illustrious career. He was first nominated for the 1979 album American Garage in the Best Jazz Fusion Performance category at the 23rd Annual GRAMMY’s in 1980, and he went on to secure his first GRAMMY win three years later for the live album Travels in the Best Jazz Fusion Performance, vocal or instrumental category.
Details about a memorial service have yet to be announced, but the Mays family asks that any donations be made out to the CalTech Fund.