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Lyle Mays: Shop Talk

Lyle Mays
Lyle Mays

Lyle Mays, both in tandem with Pat Metheny and on his two mid-’80s outings as a leader for Geffen (Lyle Mays and Street Dreams), has perfected a unique keyboard style, with supple synthesized sounds emanating out from the acoustic epicenter of a seven-foot Steinway concert grand. All the while Mays remained devoted to acoustic piano, and distilled his varied influences into a bucolic, lithesome 1993 trio date with Marc Johnson and Jack DeJohnette (Fictionary, remastered and reissued in the fall of 2000 on Warner Bros.). Still, on 1996’s Quartet and 1997’s Imaginary Day, Mays, Metheny and their core rhythm team of Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico took a giant leap forward from the samba-driven fare of the previous decade, with their most visceral, varied recitals to date, crafting energetic, experimental visions of an evolving electro-acoustic aesthetic.

Mays’ most recent CD, Solo: Improvisations for Expanded Piano (Warner Bros.), recorded on the remarkable Yamaha Disklavier MIDI acoustic piano system, blurs the distinctions between the acoustic and electronic mediums. Mays employs modern synthesis to expand upon the immense sonority, tonal grandeur and orchestral dimensionality of the concert grand piano—still the king of musical instruments. On Solo, chords and overtones are suddenly transfigured with unearthly sustain, subterranean bass extension and an expansive aura of orchestral colors across an immense ambient soundstage.

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