Lyle Mays and Alex Acuña

Lyle Mays (born November 27, 1953) is an American jazz pianist and composer from Wausaukee, Wisconsin. He is best known for his work with guitarist Pat Metheny as a member of the Pat Metheny Group. Along with Metheny, Mays has been a co-composer and arranger of almost all of the group’s music and has won eleven Grammy Awards.


While growing up, Mays had four main interests: chess, mathematics, architecture and music. His parents were musically inclined – his mother was a pianist, his father was a guitarist – and he was able to study the piano with the help of instructor Rose Barron. She allowed Mays the opportunity to practice improvisation after the structured elements of the lesson were completed. At age 9 he played organ at a family member’s wedding, and at age 14 he began to play organ in church. In summer camp he was introduced to important jazz artists.

Bill Evans‘ album Live in Montreux and Miles Davis‘ album Filles de Kilimanjaro were important influences on his formation as a jazz musician. He graduated from the University of North Texas after attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He composed and arranged for the world-renowned One O’Clock Lab Band and was the composer and arranger of their highly regarded and Grammy nominated Lab 75 album.

After leaving UNT, Mays toured with Woody Herman‘s group for approximately eight months.

In 1974, he met Pat Metheny with whom he later founded the Pat Metheny Group. During that period he lived in New York City, so poor that he was “almost starving.” Mays has won eleven Grammys with the Pat Metheny Group and been nominated for four others for his own work.


In the Pat Metheny Group, Mays provides arrangements, orchestration and the harmonic and metric backbone of the group’s musical signature. He occasionally performs on electric guitar as well. On the songs Forward March and Yolanda You Learn from the Pat Metheny Group album First Circle (1984), and in the concert tour for that album, he played trumpet.

His albums as a leader reflect a large variety of musical interests: Lyle Mays and Street Dreams build on the content of the Pat Metheny Group, while Fictionary is a straight-ahead jazz trio session featuring fellow North Texan Marc Johnson on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Solo: Improvisations for Expanded Piano is focused on solo piano improvisations.

He has also composed and recorded music for children’s records, such as Tale of Peter Rabbit, with text read by Meryl Streep.

The Steppenwolf Theater Company of Chicago featured an assortment of compositions by Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny for their production of Lyle Kessler‘s play Orphans.

He has composed classical music such as “Twelve Days in the Shadow of a Miracle”, a piece for harp, flute, viola and synthesizer (recorded 1996 by the Debussy Trio).

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