Lyle Mays, Eberhard…
The Lyle Mays Estate is elated to announce the release of a thirteen-minute “mini symphony” entitled Eberhard—a composition completed by Mays in 2009 for the Zeltsman Marimba Festival, and recorded in the months before his passing on February 10, 2020, with a slate of notable names in jazz including Bill Frisell, Alex Acuña, and Bob Sheppard.
Due out on August 27, 2021, Eberhard is a long-form, multi-section work that is Lyle’s self-professed dedication to the great German bass player Eberhard Weber, a composer whose influence loomed large on Mays and his long-time collaborator Pat Metheny in the forming of the 11-time Grammy-Award winning Pat Metheny Group during the mid-’70s and throughout their careers. According to Steve Rodby (bass player of the Pat Metheny Group and Lyle’s best friend) who did double duty on this recording as co-associate producer and acoustic bassist, “…though he called it his ‘humble tribute’ to Eberhard, it is still 100 percent Lyle in every way.”
A steady, lilting marimba (Wade Culbreath) ostinato offers an ample bed for Eberhard’s ethereal opening piano melody, performed, of course, by Mays. Lyle’s unmistakable orchestrational style is immediately on display as various shakers, rainsticks, and atmospheric synthesizer pads quietly make their way into the texture, rising and falling organically as an electric bass theme (played by longtime James Taylor cohort, Jimmy Johnson) emerges. Wordless vocals, a hallmark of the music of the Pat Metheny Group, supplied here by jazz singers Aubrey Johnson (Lyle’s niece and co-executive producer), Rosana Eckert, and Gary Eckert, are introduced—first as an accompaniment to the bass melody and later as melodic “instruments.”
Vocal features give way to Bob Sheppard’s woodwind section, which gives way to cello section underscores (led by principal Timothy Loo), and soon the whole ensemble, including star drummer/percussionists Jimmy Branly and Alex Acuña, Steve Rodby (acoustic bass), Mitchel Forman (Hammond B3 Organ/Wurlitzer piano), and Bill Frisell (guitar) have made appearances. All sixteen instrumentalists/vocalists rarely play at the same time, instead playfully weaving in and out for various features (notably by Mays, Jimmy Johnson, Aubrey Johnson, and Culbreath) and accompanying textures. In a piece already abundant with aural decadence, Bob Sheppard’s extended tenor saxophone solo, which brings Eberhard to its climax, is perhaps the most thrilling. The piece ends as it began, with a sparse recapitulation of the introduction, rewarding the listener with the feeling of having experienced an incredible musical odyssey.
In typical Lyle fashion, this music reflects and honors his far-reaching influences, most obviously the bass playing and compositional style of Eberhard Weber (with whom Lyle recorded on two occasions), but continuing on through Philip Glass’ minimalism, Indonesian Gamelan ensemble, Brazilian music (notably the percussive and speech-like vocal techniques of Lyle’s friend and collaborator Naná Vasconcelos), to the blues, and to classical forms and structures. As in all of his compositions, Mays’ propensity for exploiting compositional material (or, its “DNA”) to the fullest extent is ever constant throughout Eberhard. Like a scientist, he would take a simple melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, or other kind of idea and experiment with it until he had discovered all of the different forms it could take—melody, counterline, background pad, bassline, rhythmic motif, and more—often using the same ideas in a wide variety of ways. Eberhard is utterly intentional, containing layer upon layer of depth, complexity, love, and care for the listener to discover.
While technically a posthumous release, Mays was engaged in the making of Eberhard from beginning to end—serving as composer, arranger, performer (piano, keyboards, and synthesizers), producer, and executive producer, and was actively involved in all of the recording and mixing sessions, which took place in Los Angeles during the latter half of 2019.
Fans will know that Lyle had been on hiatus from his enormously successful touring and recording career with the Pat Metheny Group and as a solo artist (Eberhard will be his seventh release as a leader) since 2011, choosing instead to pursue his myriad non-musical passions. Then, “Lyle’s health took a bad turn in 2019, and at about the same time, he decided to try to get Eberhard recorded. The relationship between those two events is complex. What’s clear is that he would continue writing and extending this music, as was always his process: to try to find every bit of what the material suggested, every note and harmony, and sound it evoked for him. He added parts, expanded orchestration, imagining it all on an even grander scale,” Steve Rodby explains. “The result is this recording, and what he was able to hear in his final days. This wasn’t meant to be Lyle’s last piece of music, and if he had lived longer, he had plans for more.”
For more information, visit online at lylemays.com.