Village President Sheena Collum said it perfectly — “Never easy to pay tribute to someone who was one in a bazillion.”Lee May, who we all called Boz, is such a tremendous loss for the South Orange community but she wouldn’t want tears or sadness.”
Lee Boz May — Live Music Advocate and Community Lover
It was such a shock to get a call from her family telling me she has moved on to rejoin her husband Earl May in heaven. Lee was always out and about, supporting the community and being a staunch advocate for live music and the community she was raised in South Orange, NJ.
Lee May’s life was always deep into Jazz and Blues being the wife of the prolific bassist Earl May (RIP 2008) who was an idiodextrous jazz bassist. Earl was one of those rare bassists in the history of jazz who played the instrument ‘back-to-front’ playing ‘left-handed’ on a ‘right-handed’ double bass. Earl was also very well known for nurturing the careers of many musicians.
Thank You Mike Lee and Son performing a Coronavirus Social Distancing version of Lee Mays Requested song Confirmation
Lee was left with a mission by her husband Earl of “Keeping The Music Alive. Well if you played any instrument around here especially the Bass Lee “Boz” May picked up that mission with a quiet vengeance. You see Lee was known for walking up to musicians, especially a bass player, at the end of an evening, a song or a set, striking up a conversation and they would immediately get deep into the music.
Lee was a very active supporter of the South Orange Performing Arts Center, working with John Lee supporting the annual world class Giants of Jazz Program and was also the curator for the very popular SOPAC Jazz In the Loft program. If I did 70 Downtown After Sundown events in a season, Lee talked to 70 plus musicians at a minimum and she did this every chance she could throughout the many years of this event. Over the last few years when we provided music for the Maplewood 4th of July event in sweltering 95 plus degree heat, Lee was right there in the sun getting folks on and off stage. When we started the Annual 24 Hours of Music events, Lee was right there 12 noon at the Jazz On Sloan program at the South Orange Gazebo all day till I said you have to go home, and that was around midnight. Once Lee committed, she never flinched as she was on a mission.
Lee was right there when I started Jazzy Nights at The Fox and Falcon and attended every one she could. It breaks my heart because she was next up on the list to be honored as a South Orange Historian and a Live Music Advocate. We had the Mayor and other government officials joining us. And of course we had an internationally acclaimed jazz Bassist from Lady Got Chops and a few other dignitaries coming out to support all the night’s honorees. Unfortunately Coronavirus pulled the plug that night but I know for a fact Lee would have walked right on up to the bass player and said “Hi I am Lee May.
She supported all musicians all around our towns at our local live music venues. She was a fixture at Suzyques, Hat City kitchen and of course the South Mountain Blues Festival. Lee supplied her husband’s 165 year old Bass to Mike Griot who restored it and performed with the restored bass in the SOPAC Blues In the Loft program in dedication to Lee and Earl May.
Below a beautiful tribute by James Gibbs the III who sat in his truck and played his heart out in dedication to Lee Boz May. Thank You James Gibbs III
Complete 1 hr 16 min link https://vimeo.com/409885728
This is so appropriate as Lee may was always joining in and playing with the band.
Lee was on the Jazz Vespers Committee with other notable luminaries like Newark’s First Lady of Jazz Dorthaan Kirk and every event they produced was world class. Lee was also an active Newark Bethany Baptist Church Choir member. Lee was also an Arts for Kids, Inc Board Member and was always there helping out and supporting the organization. Lee was also on the Board of Trustees of The Community Coalition on Race.
Mayor South Orange Sheena Collum phrased it — “As you’ve likely read or already knew, Boz was huge in the music scene particularly her support for blues and jazz, organizing, promoting, celebrating — just all of it.”
I am very happy for the recognition of her efforts as Facebook posts have totaled almost 500 reactions, 300 plus comments and and 50 reshares and it still continues. I am still getting calls and messages locally and from across the country. I am also in touch with the family and they greatly approve and love the comments being shared. To me this type of recognition by the town, the community online and offline means her efforts to know folks, nurture musicians and keep the music alive did not go unnoticed.
I have created a tribute to Lee since at this point we still don’t have solid answers as to what happen and in today’s environment it takes a while to get information and we want let the family to do what they have to do. When they know more they said they would let me know. To see more about Lee visit this link or below for a pictorial tribute on our buddy Lee “Boz” May.
Please take a look and as they say Where’s Lee? She was quietly everywhere.
Lee May is now in music heaven, back with the love of her life — Earl May and together they can make even more music. Here on earth the mission is even tougher in these Coronavirus Social Distancing times but as Lee “Boz” May would say, it’s time for us to “Keep the Music Alive.”
Originally published at https://patch.com on April 22, 2020.