© Kathleen Tauer
Bobby LyleBobby (*1944 in Memphis, TN) is a jazz pianist/organist and educator. He grew up in a musical household after the family moved from Memphis to Minneapolis when Bobby was age 1. He showed an early aptitude for music with his mother, a church organist, being his first piano teacher when he was aged just six years old. By junior high school he was playing clarinet and flute in the band as well as continuing piano lessons. He had already started playing jazz by ear, and by the time he attended Central High School in Minneapolis, MN he came to the attention of drummer Harry Dillon who hired him to play in his trio at a private club in St. Paul, MN. Bobby was 16 years old and this was his first professional gig. After graduating from Central High Bobby attended Macalester College in St. Paul where he studied piano for two years under his tutor, pianist and composer, Professor Donald Betts (1929-2021). He then left to become a full time musician. He was soon hired by ex Ramsey Lewis bandmates Redd Holt (drums) and Eldee Young (bass) to begin touring the national jazz club circuit as Young-Holt Unlimited. In 1970, aged 26, Bobby met and briefly played with Jimi Hendrix who was planning on starting a jazz-rock group with Bobby and fellow Minnesotans Willie Weeks (bass) and Bill Lordan (drums) before Hendrix's death later that year.
Bobby's first recording opportunity came about as the result of winning an International organ competition sponsored by the Yamaha Music Corporation in 1973. The album, Bobby Lyle Plays the Electone GX707 was released in 1973 and became the first piece in a long career discography. The GX707 was the forerunner of Yamaha's pared down DX7 which ushered in a new era of portable keyboard synthesizers. In 1974 Bobby with wife Delores and two young sons all moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, CA to pursue a music career. Through a friend he was introduced to Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone) and after a brief audition was touring with Sly and the Family Stone for the rest of the year. Following this engagement Bobby met trombonist and co-founder of the Jazz Crusaders Wayne Henderson. Henderson was producing Ronnie Laws at the time and put the two of them together in the studio. Eventually Bobby was touring with Laws.
Henderson then took Lyle's demo to Larkin Arnold, the Vice President of A&R at Capitol Records, and secured him a record deal which resulted in three albums, the first of which was the classic The Genie in 1977. Capitol eventually dropped their jazz division. During this period in the early 80's Lyle toured with George Benson and then became musical director for singers Phyllis Hyman, Bette Midler (with whom he received an Emmy nomination for musical direction after her HBO special 'Diva Las Vegas' in 1999), Al Jarreau, and Anita Baker. In June 1983 Bobby played keyboards with Al Jarreau at a concert held in Milano, Italy. In 1987 after a live audition for Atlantic Records Sylvia Rhone, Vice President of A&R, signed him to a deal which produced six albums in nine years. In 1990 his album The Journey reached number 1 on the Billboard Jazz Chart. Then followed three albums on independent labels.
In 2013 Bobby started his own label "New Warrior Music" to go with his Genie Productions company. Under this banner he produced and released a tribute to his Hammond B-3 idol Jimmy Smith called 'The Way I Feel'. More recently he has also been working as a jazz piano instructor and practitioner of master classes in colleges and High schools. On 08 November 2020, Lyle was inducted into the Black Music Awards Hall of Fame in Houston, TX. In 1997, Lyle was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction as Bette Midler’s Music Director, and, in 2021 for his latest single Living in the Flow. In March 2021 he released the album 'Ivory Flow' which was a return to the contemporary/smooth genre he helped to pioneer.
Lyle continues to perform with his own band and also currently teaches and mentors jazz piano to students both privately as well as in clinics and seminars. Walker Elementary School in Houston has set up a Bobby Lyle Music Scholarship Fund.
|Click on the logo to see Bobby's tour dates.|
The Way I Feel
New Warrior Music
Bobby Lyle, Hammond B-3 organ, piano, synthesizer
Brennen Nase, guitar
Keith Vivens, bass
Mark Prince, drums
Mark Simmons, drums
Patrick Williams, drums
Milton Comeaux, percussion
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