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Bobby Lyle was born in Memphis, Tennessee. His family eventually
moved and settled in Minneapolis, where Lyle’s love and fascination
with the piano began.
“My love affair with the piano began at age six with
mom as my first teacher” Lyle recalls… “And growing
up in a climate where you have six months of winter every year provided
lots of practice time”.
After firm-grounding Lyle began the long arduous journey playing
regular gigs and clubs to further fine-tune his skills. This ‘hands-on’
preparation and eventual exposure to jazz legends such as Errol
Garner, McCoy Turner, Oscar Peterson, Ahmed Jamal and Jimmy Smith
would be essential to Lyle’s developing talent.
Guitar / rock legend Jimi Hendricks was planning to set up
a jazz-rock group in the early 1970’s. This group would have
included Lyle on piano, Willie Weeks (bass) and Bill Jordan on drums.
Unfortunately the music world was robbed of this promising, eclectic
collaboration by Hendricks’ death later that year.
Lyle’s family re-located to Los Angeles in 1974. A nine-month
tour with Sly and the Family Stone followed soon after the move.
Lyle met Wayne Henderson (Jazz Crusaders) during a stint with Ronnie
Laws. This meeting would steer Lyle to his first solo deal with
capital records in 1977.The now highly collectable albums, “The
Genie”, “New Warrior” and “Night Fire”
were released before Capitol decided to close their Jazz division.
Lyle began touring again in 1981 with George Benson. He would
continue touring extensively throughout the 1980’s with artists
such as Anita Baker,
Al Jarreau and Bette Midler.
In 1988 Lyle signed with Atlantic Records. This signing would
prove fruitful, with the release of six well-received, critically
acclaimed albums. Lyle continued touring with his own band as well
as with Bette Midler. In 1997 Lyle received an Emmy nomination for
his work as Musical Director on Middler’s HBO special ‘Diva
Lyle’s only failing, as far as I know (Mr Lyle can correct
me if I am wrong) for whatever reason, Lyle has never toured England
with his band. As Bobby Lyle has spent many years adjusting to the
cooler temperatures of Minneapolis, he cannot use ‘the long
cold British winters’ as an excuse. And despite some Americans’
belief, we no longer have pee-soup fog, yes our public transport
is expensive, our central London restaurants serve over-priced food…
but we do have some great summers!
Bobby Lyle just seems unable to produce bad music! I always seem
to have at least one Bobby Lyle album on my wanted list. I play
his music so much I can now recognise his compositions and style
of playing ‘at the drop of a high hat’, or in Lyle’s
case, at the touch of a piano key.
I am not suggesting that all
his music sounds the same, far from it.
If I hear a Lyle track I know I do not have, I hurriedly obtain
a pen and paper waiting for the DJ to announce the track name and
album title. Thanks to the marvel of the internet, record hunting
has taken a less physical twist, which is a good thing as I am getting
to old to trail the few good record shops here in London and surrounding
overcrowded suburbs for ‘affordable vinyl’, or CD.
I have always thought that Lyle’s albums should be stored
‘World Music’ in stores as well as the ‘Jazz /
fusion’ section. Lyle’s music transcends many cultures
with its dynamic energy and warmth. He is able to breath life into
his piano, or keyboard and make it dance before your very eyes.
Such is the power of Lyle over his instrument!
I am also convinced this man has more than two hands and more than
the obligatory ‘four fingers one thumb per hand’. Lyle
is able to paint the colours of the rainbow and beyond on the keys.
He has the ability to transport you to many tropical islands without
the use of conventional transport. If you have not had the opportunity
to visit paradise (and let’s face it, most of us have not)
you should be able to envisage a little of what paradise could look
like, or feel like, while listening to Lyle’s compositions
and piano virtuoso.
Pick any one of Lyle’s albums displayed below and you will
not be disappointed. My first purchase was the album “Ivory
I played this album non-stop for many months, paying
particular attention to his cover of Anita Baker’s “Been
So Long”. I love the way Lyle and his fellow musicians work
the chord progression up to the bridge. Quite an erotic experience!
I will always remember listening to “Inner Peace”,
from the album
“The Power Of Touch” for the first time. I was engrossed
by Lyle's piano wizardry. I sat in my listening chair spellbound
while the final track "Inner Peace" washed over me. I
was unable to move for nearly ten minutes. When I did, I felt as
though I had received a full body massage from Hale Berry, Tyra
Banks and J-Lo.
The power of Lyle's piano is simply breathtaking!