9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Lyle Mays (Audio CD)
I have often wondered what Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays individually bring to the party for the Pat Metheny Group albums. I love the PMG stuff because, at its best, it is both fantastically structured, almost orchestral jazz in which are embedded some fantastic jazz solos (many of them Mr Mays as well as the eponymous Pat). Yet, by himself Metheny seems to produce small group, conventional jazz records and his solo-written pieces for the PMG are likewise fairly low-key, straight-ish jazz. Is the presiding genius who produces the complex, highly arranged and orchestrated compositions of the PMG the relatively uncelebrated Lyle Mays instead?
On the evidence of this album, yes it is. In a sense, there isn't much difference between this and a PMG album, except that there are more piano solos. The tunes are accessible yet possessing an intricate musical architecture. However, there are in fact some significant differences. The tunes are probably a bit less populist and tunefully subtle, rather than the sunny crowd-pleasers that the PMG might come up with (though they are still hum-able and foot-tapping). And the sidemen, in particular Bill Frissell on guitar, give the music a different dynamic. Mays is very much the star of the show on this album - he has almost all the (excellent) solos and dominates proceedings (fair enough - it IS a Lyle Mays album, after all).
For me, a number of tunes stand out: Highland Aire, a sort of Scottish jig meets calypso, is an excellent opener and, while not the most convincing example of "folk jazz", is nevertheless a merry and engaging piece; Slink, as the name suggests, is sinuous and dark; Alaskan Suite - Ascent starts with a sinisterly funky groove before moving on to an emphatic climax; and Close to Home is a tender, wistful ballad.
Certainly, this equals the best of the PMG, and may surpass it. Anyone fond of the Pat Metheny Group should get this and revel in what Mr Mays can produce by himself.