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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 Las Vegas’.

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!

Lyle’s albums

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 under
‘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 Dreams”.
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!

Robin Francis
November 2005

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Straight and smooth rhythm stories Bobby Lyle Trio - Night Breeze Ivory Dreams
The Power Of Touch Secret Island New Warrior Night Fire


Further Recommended

  Click Alex Bugnon's image to read his biography & view his photographs...

Alex Bugnon @ the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2008 (click to go to his page)

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