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Lyle Mays — Eberhard
((Not on label) no#, 2021, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2021-10-26

Eberhard Cover art

When Lyle Mays died in 2020, he left behind a recording of a piece dedicated to the influential bassist Eberhard Weber. Weber himself doesn’t play on the piece, but the music reflects Mays’ appreciation of his impact on jazz as well as Mays personally. The 16-piece ensemble features the composer on piano and synthesizer, Steve Rodby (acoustic bass), Jimmy Johnson (electric bass), Bill Frisell (guitar), Mitchel Forman (organ, electric piano), Wade Culbreath (tuned percussion), and Bob Sheppard (woodwinds), along with Alex Acuña and Jimmy Branly on drums and percussion, three vocalists (Aubry Johnson, Gary Eckert, and Rosana Eckert), and four cellists (Timothy Loo, Armen Ksajikian, Eric Byers, and Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick). “Eberhard” is just over 13 minutes in length, and is comprised of an ever-evolving progression of ideas. Meditative marimba and piano provide a lovely introduction and coda, with Johnson’s melodic fretless bass soaring above. As the piece develops, more parts are added, building up in denseness. With the wordless vocal parts, I’m occasionally reminded of Hatfield & the North or National Health infused with a bit of Brazilian flavor and of course Mays’ work with Pat Methey. Mays has his own distinctive way of harmonizing melodies, however, that sets this piece apart from anything else. There are brief solo spots for Aubry Johnson scatting, Culbreath on vibes, and Sheppard on tenor sax, though composed ensemble parts are much more prominent than any individual contribution. I have to admit the cellos rarely stand out in the arrangement, and Frisell is only occasionally given a moment to make his presence known. But it’s the composition itself that is the star, and a tantalizing taste of what might have been had Mays lived to complete a full album.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Bill Frisell, Lyle Mays

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