Lyle Mays, the pianist and composer who co-founded the innovative jazz fusion band the Pat Metheny Group, has died, according to an announcement posted on his official Facebook page late Monday night. He was 66.
According to the Facebook post, written by his niece Aubrey Johnson, Mays died Monday morning in Los Angeles “surrounded by loved ones, after a long battle with a recurring illness.”
“Lyle was a brilliant musician and person, and a genius in every sense of the word,” the post reads. “From his family, thank you for loving him and his music.”
Metheny posted his own tribute on Facebook early Tuesday morning.
“Lyle was one of the greatest musicians I have ever known. Across more than 30 years, every moment we shared in music was special,” he wrote. “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.”
That special bond was noted in a Milwaukee Journal of a Pat Metheny Group concert in 1995.
“It’s obvious that Metheny and Mays have been creative partners for a long time,” entertainment critic Nick Carter wrote. “Whether they’re tearing through unrestrained improvisations or ripping off tightly rehearsed parts, their playing is always complementary; one never intrudes upon the other.”
Steve Rodby, bassist and producer from the Pat Metheny Group, also issued a statement on Metheny’s Facebook page.
“I had the great privilege of having Lyle in my life for decades, as an inspiration and as my friend,” he wrote. “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.”
Mays first met Metheny at the Wichita Jazz Festival in 1975, according to the Journal Sentinel archives, and he first worked with Metheny on the latter’s solo album “Watercolors” in 1977. The Pat Metheny Group officially debuted with its self-titled album the following year, releasing 11 studio albums through 2005, and two live albums.
Metheny and Mays also worked together on a second Metheny solo album, a joint album under both composers’ names, and as composers for the 1985 film “The Falcon and the Snowman.” That soundtrack included the song “This Is Not America,” their collaboration with David Bowie.
With Metheny, Mays won 11 Grammys, including best contemporary jazz album for Pat Metheny Group’s “Speaking of Now” from 2002 and the band’s final album “The Way Up” in 2005. He was nominated for a Grammy 23 times according to the Recording Academy database.
In 2016, Mays was inducted into the Wisconsin Area Music Industry’s Hall of Fame. Last month, the Journal Sentinel named Mays as one of the 25 most impactful Wisconsin musicians of the past 100 years.
There are no memorial plans at this time, according to Metheny’s post on Facebook. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Caltech Fund.