Kitt Lyles is one of Chicago’s most distinctive bassists and composers. Born and raised in South Carolina, Lyles has cultivated an aesthetic that synthesizes his love for Southern roots music with imaginative contemporary jazz. Unafraid to channel romance and grit alike and unwilling to sacrifice the centrality of melody, Lyles draws out the bass’ most vocal personality. Through his lyrical compositional style, inspired by the musical lineage of Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington, he seeks to highlight his musicians’ unique voices as well.
A graduate of Northwestern University (BM Jazz Studies, 2013), Kitt Lyles is an active bassist, guitarist, composer, and educator in the Chicago jazz community. He has been featured on 14 studio albums and toured and taught masterclasses across the US, Latin America, and Asia, including festivals and venues such as The Chicago Jazz Festival, The Charlotte Jazz Festival, The Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Festival Espontáneo in Chiapas, MX, The Chicago Latin Jazz Festival, The Blue Note in Beijing, Blu Jazz Singapore, Zinco Jazz Club in Mexico City, Snug Harbor in New Orleans, ShapeShifter Lab in NYC, The Green Mill, The Jazz Showcase, The Old Town School of Folk Music, and The Logan Center at UChicago.
In 2015, Lyles released his debut album, Real Talk, which peaked at #84 in Jazzweek radio charts. Regarding Real Talk, Hobart Taylor of KUCI radio wrote “Composer/bassist Lyles is a sterling example of why Chicago is, in my view, the capital city of modern working jazz musicians…Chicago jazz musicians of every color and gender, whether native or drawn there by its vibrant scene, seem to make a living being true to themselves while expanding the genre via thoughtful composition and playing that celebrates artistry without hooking onto trends.” In 2020 Lyles released Wake Before Dawn, the follow up to Real Talk. Wake Before Dawn continues Lyles’ penchant for blending nostalgic southern roots music, contemporary and straight-ahead jazz, and latin folkloric music. The album features Lyles’ core septet as well as guest vocalists and musicians from Chicago’s jazz, classical, and latin music scenes, and from his hometown Greenville, South Carolina.
In addition to leading his band “Real Talk Collective”, Kitt has performed with prominent ensembles and individuals of the music scenes in Chicago and beyond such as Grammy Award winning Chuchito Valdes (Cuba), Grammy Award winning Donato Poveda (Cuba), Vladimir Cetkar (Macedonia), the Roy McGrath Quartet, Gustavo Cortiñas Snapshot, Erik Skov Liminality, Mike Allemana, Amos Hoffman, Tony do Rosario, Yuri Hevia, Son Monarcas, and Damian Rivero.
I took private guitar lessons with Kitt Lyles for about 1 year. Kitt is a highly skilled musician who does a fantastic job of teaching and passing on his knowledge and love for music. Our lessons mainly focused on music theory, including scales and lead guitar skills. My lessons with Kitt gave me the confidence to perform with a band in front of an audience for the first time. Kitt is an awesome person as well as a wonderful teacher!
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