Whether intentionally or not, Lyle Mays seems to have perpetrated one of jazz’s great disappearing acts. For more than three decades, beginning in the mid-’70s, he was an integral component of the Pat Metheny Group, as keyboardist, composer and arranger; released a handful of well-regarded solo albums; and served as sideman to a number of high-profile artists. But for more than a decade now it’s been radio silence.
Given his below-the-radar status, the emergence of any previously unheard Mays music of significance is a treat. This new set is not newly recorded—it documents a 1993 concert in Germany—but it’s a treasure, described in the liner notes as “the only legal recording of Mays’ acoustic quartet,” that being bassist Marc Johnson, saxophonist Bob Sheppard and drummer Mark Walker, with Mays sticking solely to piano. Its nine tracks are spread over two CDs, all of them Mays compositions save for an expansive reworking of “Au Lait,” composed by Metheny and Mays and originally heard on the PMG’s Offramp album.