Record of the Day: Lyle Mays, "Street Dreams"

Record of the Day: Lyle Mays, “Street Dreams”

Lyle Mays
Street Dreams (Warner Bros CD: B00000G2QA)

Musical alter ego of Pat Metheny, keyboardist and composer Lyle Mays was one of the most interesting musicians on the American jazz scene, thanks above all to his undisputed writing skills and his taste for polychrome orchestrations.

A great expert in synthesizers, Mays was able to use electronics in a way that never made them seem cold or hyper-technological, thanks to the maniacal attention he paid to every single nuance of color. His compositions are always extremely rich from a harmonic point of view and, compared to those of his friend Pat, they never indulge in saccharine sentimentalism or New Age temptations; the stylistic descent from Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett in Lyle’s piano style is declared, but he was not content to simply follow the stylistic features of his predecessors and added a.
a completely personal melodic transparency.

Author of four solo albums and one live album, Mays was a musician who never sought to show off, leaving Pat the role of superstar and developing his own musical alchemy with discretion. The finest of his solo works remains “Street Dreams”, which features Mays’ keyboards in the company of a head-spinning cast, including among others Steve Gadd (drums), Bill Frisell (guitar), Marc Johnson (double bass) and Bob Mintzer (flute).

All the songs on the album are fabulous, from the swirling harmonic labyrinth of “Chorinho” to the rarefied atmospheres of “August”. The initial “Feet First” seems like a cross between the Pat Metheny Group and Steely Dan, while the suspended atmosphere of “Hangtime” contrasts effectively with the big band score of the bizarre theme of “Possible Straight” (the only piece on the album co-written with Metheny), with an excellent polytonal piano solo by Mays that seems to pay homage to Charlie Mingus.
The suite “Street Dreams” takes up half of the album and is exquisitely crafted in its evocation of atmospheres that mix jazz and ethnic flavours; Mays produces highly intelligent keyboard evolutions within a solid compositional structure, drawing vast harmonic rainbows to arrive at the enchanted reiterations of the last part, built on two chords, in a suspended atmosphere.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical subjects.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: Un disco per ogni giorno dell’anno” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.