The Amazing Lyle Mays: The Beauty and Mystery of Music

For most of us, life is full of unexpected and sometimes surreal twists and turns. In the same way, these changes in path and experiences are both large and small, both pleasing and disturbing, and also both trivial and dramatically significant.  We are never quite sure of what to expect next.

I experienced this phenomenon once again very recently. I was at home, browsing the newspaper while listening to some of my favorite music from Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, specifically from the collection: As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Incredibly, I came across a small article reporting the death of Lyle Mays on 2/10/20. I must say that my heart was immediately and involuntarily filled with instant sadness and shock. I have been a listener and follower of Metheny and Mays for many, many years. Their music has been a constant theme and a reassuring thread for most of my adult life.

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity on multiple occasions to hear their music performed live, although only once did I have the opportunity to see and hear the Pat Metheny Group with Lyle Mays as the keyboardist, along with Steve Rodby, and I believe Antonio Sanchez. The music that was created and performed while these musicians were together, particularly the recordings with Paul Wertico and Pedro Aznar is, to me, the very best that was produced within the broad Pat Metheny repertoire. I will never forget that first live concert, which was in 2002 at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa. I had listened to so much of their music that I was certain that I would know a LOT of their songs, many of which I hoped to hear them perform that night. The collection: Speaking of Now, was the most recent LP they had produced, which I hadn’t listened to yet.

Again, incredibly, I didn’t recognize any of the music they played since they decided to perform Speaking of Now in it’s entirety. It didn’t matter. It was absolutely fantastic!! I jumped for joy at the end, as they came out for an encore and did First Circle which was really my absolute favorite at the time and the one song I REALLY wanted to hear.

The surreal twist I referred to came just a few days after reading about Lyle’s passing. I received in the mail the new Pat Metheny CD: From This Place. I forgot that I had purchased it in a pre-sale several weeks ago. As any Metheny fan knows, Pat has performed and recorded with dozens of fellow musicians, formed new bands and taken his music down a wide variety of paths. The same is true for Lyle Mays, by the way.

I was struck by the strange dichotomy, the odd juxtaposition of these two events. Here I experienced two wildly different moments: An eager anticipation of new, fresh music from my absolute favorite artist, Pat Metheny, and then a terrible dashing of my fervent hope that Metheny and Mays would collaborate, and more importantly, tour together again someday.

I am not sure if you would agree with me on this thought but I feel it is absolutely true: To me, the beauty and mystery of the music created by Metheny/Mays is the exact same tour de force of the quality and necessary collaborations of Lennon/McCartney, the dominant creative force of The Beatles. I say this because I really believe that the best music created by both sets of collaborators came into existence precisely BECAUSE they wrote the music together. I do not imply that the individual music created by Lennon or McCartney is not also beautiful and well worth listening to, nor do I feel that the music created individually by Metheny or Mays is less beautiful. In fact, I would say that the solo productions of both Metheny and Mays demonstrate and confirm the incredible talent of both. To me though, the best of each was brought out and created when they shared the creative process.

Whether or not you are familiar with Lyle Mays or Pat Metheny, I added here some links to give you an idea of the beauty and mystery of the music from both an individual and a collaborative perspective. The first is a song called: September Fifteenth from the collection: As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Here is where you can hear the subtle beauty of how these two incredible musicians complemented one another.


Another example of this same idea is the song: Too Soon Tomorrow from the collection: Imaginary Day


Finally, to acknowledge the wonderful talent and happy soul of Lyle Mays, I add this link to a YouTube selection from a live performance that embraces all the variety and musical intrigue contained within a musical genius. Fortunately for us, there are so many wonderful musical pieces to hold on to and enjoy that make Lyle’s passing just a little less painful. He truly spoke the language of the beauty and mystery of music.



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