Lyle Mays – “Eberhard”

So happy to say that this piece is *finally* out in the wild for people to hear. A piece of music close to my heart, deeply satisfying to work on, challenging and sublime – my favorite things about Lyle’s music all rolled into a single 13 minute adventure.

Details are here but I wanted to jot down and share some of my memories…

What do I remember about this project?

Getting the first note from Lyle about the “next session” for “Eberhard”, as if I had been talking to him for months about it and knew exactly what he was on about – in fact, I had no idea, I hadn’t heard from Lyle in probably a good 4 or 5 months, and it was as if we’d been conversing about it every day since then and I just didn’t remember. Anyway, I soon figured out what he was talking about, and though I didn’t know the details, of course I knew I was in – no question.

I remember the first session at Sphere; hearing Aubrey, Roseanna, and Gary bringing Lyle’s wonderful writing to life – Aubrey, such a beautiful voice, nailing the solos. The three of them singing those gorgeous harmonies with precision and musicality.

Wade Culbreath was the first person I thought of when I heard Lyle’s mockup, and the first meeting in Wade’s garage jammed full of marimbas, xylophones, glocks, timpani, and all manner of percussion instruments didn’t disappoint; seeing Lyle’s joy as Wade brought the mallet parts to life, playing the solos note-for-note as Lyle wanted them, *before* getting all the music – he’d transcribed and memorized it from the mockups. Then the session with Wade at East/West Studio 1; Perfect style, virtuosic technique, deep musical understanding, all the right instincts – in many ways that will be one of my favorite days in the studio – Lyle was just so happy to hear those parts played so perfectly – every time Wade’s name was mentioned from then on he would light up!

Jimmy Branly and Alex Acuña at Sphere, bringing *all* the excitement and energy and still able to see the overarching form of the music.

Jimmy Johnson’s elegant, soulful fretless playing for the all-important bass melodies.

Lyle’s talking about a cello quartet on this? How will that possibly fit in? But really, as Steve said to me; if Lyle had it in his head it was gonna be cool, and sure enough; a beautiful texture full of interest.

Steve Rodby *finally* giving life to the signature lick of the song and making it groove as only he can.

Mitch Forman; not too daunting a task to be a keyboard player playing Lyle’s music with Lyle sitting behind the glass, right? Mitch came up with all those wonderful, soulful B3 and wurly parts at Sphere and Henson – I couldn’t really imagine why a keyboard player other than Lyle was needed, and now I can’t imagine this piece without him.

Shep; first all those great woodwind parts, and then to top it off, navigating the long arc of the tenor solo that sends the whole thing into overdrive and delivers on the final climax. That was the session at Henson with Shep on tenor, Steve on acoustic bass, and Mitch playing B3 – a fun day!

Recording Lyle’s piano on Lady Gaga’s WHITE Steinway Spirio – scary looking but beautiful sounding; Steinway reassured us that underneath the white vinyl overlay was a regular beautiful black Steinway D. A grueling day at Sphere, but we all knew it was the final, most important piece of the puzzle.

Mixing at my place with Lyle over the course of a few days – At that point he was very weak, and yet I was amazed at his ability to focus on the details, to hear the big picture and the “trees” in the forest, to still get *excited* about the music! So hard to maintain the overall dynamic shape while zooming in on so many details, and there are a *lot* of them in this piece – hundreds of little moments that nobody else would have thought to put in, but Lyle never forgot about any of them – each one adding to the musical/sonic interest of the piece without distracting from the central narrative.

And through it all Lyle – I can’t imagine the physical pain he was in or how he managed to summon the energy he had working on this music – I know he was completely and utterly drained after every session, but somehow he’d maintain focus and enthusiasm for the 8 hours or so every session demanded. I know this project brought him joy.

In the end, none of it was rushed, there was no “we just need to get this done” – when we finished the mix (during what would turn out to be Lyle’s last week on earth), it really felt like we had *finished* it – all the details were right, everything Lyle wanted was in there, and it was all finally realized as he had heard it in his head.

This couldn’t have happened without everyone involved: of course the fabulous musicians, but also Jon Papenbrook who was such a help to Lyle and the rest of us throughout. Bob Rice, who knew everything there was to know about Lyle’s keyboards and sounds, assisted Lyle faithfully throughout, and who navigated the myriad difficult recording logistics. Steve Rodby, who aside from his contribution playing, was Lyle’s most trusted musical collaborator/advisor/editor and was an essential part of this piece behind the scenes. Pierre Piscitelli who kept us in scores, and Ryan Andrews who made sure we had what we needed musically and was invaluable to Lyle during the process. Aubrey, for making the release happen.

I hope this brings joy to everyone who hears it – I think it’s a beautiful piece of music and contains so much of what made Lyle’s music wonderful; lyrical and impressionistic, but not overly sentimental, full of sophistication, intelligence, and surprise, and yet *always* deeply soulful and grooving.