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A Tribute to Greg May

24th April 2021:

Last weekend we said farewell to one of our original Loving the Music members, Greg May, who was senselessly murdered in his Smithfield home. Today is Greg’s wake, and although I can’t be there, I will be joining the proceedings on Zoom later. I have dedicated today’s post to him. Greg introduced me to some rather special musicians since we linked up on Facebook some years ago, and what better way to honour his memory than to revisit some of them today.

RIP Greg May – 1952 – 2021

Greg loved World Music and I was particularly blown away with one of his shares, the French Electro/Arabic outfit, Orange Blossom. They formed in 1993 and after some early changes in the line-up, released their self-titled debut album in 1997 which they toured internationally. After a sabbatical and another reshuffle of members they released the album, Everything Must Change in 2004 and that is our starting point for today’s selection.

Orange Blossom’s style of World Music didn’t happen by chance. As Mexican-born Djembe guru, Carlos Robles Arenas recounts, “I met fellow band members P J Chabot (violin) and Mathias Vaguenez (Percussion) in France. At first, we started to play in an acoustic style. There was violin, guitar, accordion and Hammond. Then we started to mix it and used samples from all over the world. For two years we worked every day to find a style that we really felt and resonated in all of us”.

Orange Blossom has managed to break through the perception that audiences don’t want to listen to Arabic music. They have become popular at major World Music festivals and were asked to tour with Robert Plant after a friend had given him an album of theirs.

The energy of the band and powerful vocals from Egyptian-born Hend Alwary is something to behold. Here’s ‘Habibi’, the track that got me hooked. Thanks Greg!

French World Music outfit, Orange Blossom managed to break through the perception that audiences don’t want to listen to Arabic music. This dedication to their distinctive sound is obvious in this live footage of Orange Blossom performing ‘Maria’, a track from their third album, Under Shades of Violet released in 2014.

They have become popular at major World Music festivals and were asked to tour with Robert Plant after a friend had given him an album of theirs. “Touring has reinforced my beliefs that music is the only truly global language”, says core member Carlos Robles Arenas. “It is one of the best ways of understanding each other’s culture“. I agree. Here’s, ‘Maria’.

I’ll always thank Greg for the Orange Blossom head-up

The second artist that I got to know and love thanks to Greg May is the dark-Blues/Bluegrass outfit, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. There is something about their quirky sense of fun that really appeals to me. Their videos are always entertaining and the songs appeal to my inner-redneck.

Josh ‘The Reverend’ Peyton’s musical dreams were nearly crushed as a teenager until an operation gave him the ability to hold his fretting hand in a fingering position. This led to him developing his own picking and playing style that is perfectly accompanied by his wife, Breezy, on washboard, and drummer Max Seteney who replaced ‘The Rev’s’ brother Jaymie Peyton.

Here’s ‘The Devils Look Like Angels (and the angels look like hell)’. Great title, great video, great band. What’s not to like?

Like any part-time small band trying to make their way in the musical world, they played the gigs that they could while juggling ‘normal jobs’. It was when they decided to take a 40-hour drive from Indiana to California to open for the Derek Trucks Band, that Trucks’ wife, the mega-talented Susan Tedeschi, convinced the upcoming band to devote themselves to their music and full-time touring.

They received an offer from a blues record label but discovered that they had sold more copies of their independently pressed CD “The Pork’n’Beans Collection” at their concerts than the label had managed to sell of any of their other artists; Needless to say that they stayed independent. The Rev and Breezy married in 2003 and they have been making merry ever since.

The second track from The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is a new song from the album ‘Dance Songs for Hard Times’ released this month. Unfortunately, Greg’s tragic passing didn’t give us time to share some new favourites from the album, but I am sure this would have been one of them. Have a listen to ‘Ways and Means’.

The third artist that Greg introduced me to is a bass guitarist who only started learning to play at age 14. Six years later she was playing along with the likes of Jeff Beck, Prince, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, Chick Corea and Mick Jagger.

Tal Wilkefeld’s debut album, ‘Love Remains’ was produced by Jackson Browne and received huge critical acclaim, reaching #1 on the Billboard Heat-seeker Charts within the first week of release and cemented her as not only a brilliant instrumentalist but a formidable singer/songwriter.

The first track is from a live recording of her opening for the 50th Anniversary concert of The Who, and the song ‘Killing Me’.

I mentioned how Tal Wilkenfeld had gone from beginner to appearing with the superstars within 6 years. This little snippet from Wikipedia will give you an idea of how she was embraced into their ranks.

‘Upon learning that Chick Corea was seeking a bassist for an upcoming tour, Wilkenfeld sent him demos of her song ‘Transformation’ and was selected for his 2007 Australian tour with Frank Gambale and Antonio Sanchez. A few months later, she joined Jeff Beck, Vinnie Colaiuta and Jason Rebello for Beck’s summer European tour. The group completed their tour at Eric Clapton’s 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago, Illinois, performing to a sell-out crowd of approximately 40,000 people. By November 2007, Wilkenfeld had rejoined Beck and the other band members for a week-long residency at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. Beck selected that venue to record a new DVD and CD, with guests that included Clapton, Joss Stone and Imogen Heap. It was recorded, filmed, and released as Live at Ronnie Scott’s. On the same trip, Wilkenfeld joined Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, singer Corinne Bailey Rae and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta on a session filmed for the A&E series, Live from Abbey Road. Wilkenfeld completed 2007 with two standing-room-only Greenwich Village shows with Krantz’.

In 2009, Wilkenfeld toured Australia and Japan with Jeff Beck, who referred to her as a genius, saying “She will pick up mistakes that…Vinnie and I miss. So, she’s a great anchor as well.”

Wilkenfeld’s musical and spiritual journey is inseparable. She told Rolling Stone magazine. “I’m very focused on my spiritual, emotional, and mental growth and meditate every day. I want to continue to evolve as a person, and I hope that my music will reflect that. Meditating helps creativity flow. The more you meditate the more you realize that everything is a meditation. The silence is important.”

When Bass Player Magazine asked about her time working with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Wilkenfeld said: “It’s comforting to know that two of the greatest musicians alive are just as focused on their spiritual paths as their musical paths, and for them, they’re one and the same.”

Reading through the list of collaborations she has appeared on, it is evident that this is a very talented and focused lady. Hopefully, we will see a new solo album at some time. I do know one thing for sure; whenever I hear a Tal Wilkenfeld track I will think of my friend Greg. I’m closing today with the title track from her debut album. Here’s ‘Love Remains’

Thank you for spending time with me today to remember a very special soul who hosted numerous musical happenings at The Lazy Likkawaan in Smithfield. The sad and tragic murder of Greg has left a huge void in the lives of his family and many, many friends throughout the local music and art world. I’m sure that you’ll join me in expressing our condolences to them all.

RIP my friend.

Greg May

1952 – 2021

The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music’s Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that does more than just share a song.

The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.

Words © Andrew Knapp 2021

Published by Loving the Music

I am a music-lover who has been fortunate enough to live through six-decades of ever-changing musical styles and genres. Loving the Music is my eclectic collection of regular music-related mini-features and whatever else tickles my musical fancy. You can also find me on the Loving the Music Facebook group and page. Happy listening - Andrew Knapp

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