Further reflections from Pat
As a few days have passed here, I am getting so many requests to comment on Lyle’s passing. Over the past hours, in response, I took a few moments to further reflect….
There was a valuable lesson I learned early on from my most important mentor, Gary Burton; when you start a group, you have an obligation to choose the best musicians you can possibly find. And then, if you are lucky, once you have great people in place, you have an even more important obligation; to create an environment for them to do their very best.
The mandate of the bandleader as I understood it from Gary, (and I believe he understood it from Stan Getz who got it from —… who got it from —…ad infinitum) was to offer the most talented players every opportunity to develop the things that they are most interested to the highest degree possible under your auspices; to create a platform that intersects with what your goals are as a leader, but also a zone that provides a world open to exploration and expansion for everyone. When the moment comes that that intersection is no longer in sight for either side of the equation, that is when it is time to make a change.
With Lyle, as with Steve Rodby, that moment never came. There was always plenty to talk about. In fact, it seemed infinite.
My initial attraction to Lyle’s talent came first and foremost by way of his sensational abilities as a piano player. And I noticed from the first time I heard him that his playing reflected a deep and natural sense of orchestration. From there, things naturally led to an unmatched ability to do a kind of on-the-spot arranging/orchestration that was unprecedented - only Joe Zawinul had explored that aspect of small group playing in similar ways that provided inspiration. As the mandate of what the group was to be naturally and quite organically embraced the emerging musical instrument technology of the times, a new kind of sound became possible. Importantly, Lyle also carried a deep awareness of guitar - he was actually a very good guitar player, thanks to his dad, who also played. But he had so many skills and interests that paralleled mine, endless possibilities ensued.
Between the two of us, with Steve Rodby often as our essential and often unheralded guide, there was always a shared focus on the destination of music itself, and what an idea might become. Whenever we were working on anything or playing together in any capacity, it was always about it (the music), not us (the musicians).
I am so grateful for the time and music we shared together, and I am happy and proud that so much of it is well documented. People always ask if there might have been more. The answer is yes. The lifestyle of going out on the road night after night, for sometimes hundreds of nights at a time, is not for everyone and has real challenges - it is never easy for anyone and it is almost impossible to describe what it is really like. But, no matter what was happening in the day-to-day of it all, Lyle always gave it his all on the bandstand.
We did a brief round of gigs a while back, and it was clear in every way that he had had enough of hotels, buses, and so forth. But we had talked about doing a part 2 of “Wichita” at some point, there was a really wacky almost indescribably odd project that came up a few years back (maybe someday I will talk about it in detail) and we both agreed it could be a fun thing for us to do together, but in the end it didn’t pan out. No doors were ever shut between us.
I absolutely respected his privacy over all our time together, and it became a primary thing for me to protect that in recent years, as it will be going forward. As I wrote earlier. I will miss him with all my heart.
In addition to everything else; Lyle, Steve, and I were friends for going on half a century, and together we shared many of the ups-and-downs of our lives together here on the planet, on and off the bandstand. I am most grateful for that above all.
Thank you for all the amazing outreach at this difficult time. Steve, Aubrey, and I and his extended family appreciate the heartfelt condolences we are getting from around the world.