MILFORD GRAVES

(1941–2021) Lived and worked in South Jamaica, Queens.

 
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Milford Graves was a percussionist, acupuncturist, herbalist, martial artist, programmer, and professor. A pioneer of free Jazz, Graves was a member of the New York Art Quartet, whose iconic first recording in 1964 featured LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) reading his poem "Black Dada Nihilismus." In 1967, he played at John Coltrane’s funeral.

 

A consummate autodidact with a syncretic approach, Graves invented a martial art form called Yara based on the movements of the Praying Mantis, African ritual dance, and Lindy Hop in 1972. Shortly thereafter, Graves joined the Black Music Division at Bennington College, where he taught for 39 years.

 

In 2000 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and began to study human heart vibrations to better understand music’s healing potential, and in 2015 he received the Doris Duke Foundation Impact Award. He is the subject of a critically acclaimed, feature-length documentary, Milford Graves Full Mantis (2018), directed by his former student, Jake Meginsky, with Neil Young. In 2017, he premiered his sculpture work at The Artist’s Institute (Hunter College), and went on to show his visual art at the Queens Museum in 2018. A retrospective of his work, Milford Graves; A Mind-Body Deal was shown at ICA Philadelphia in 2020.

 

Additional notable recordings include In Concert At Yale University (with Don Pullen, 1966); Dialogue of the Drums (with Andrew Cyrille, 1974); Babi (1977); Meditation Among Us (1977); Real Deal (with David Murray, 1992); Grand Unification (1998); Beyond Quantum (with Anthony Braxton and William Parker, 2008); and Space/Time Redemption (with Bill Laswell, 2014).

 

Known to most as "Professor," he was diagnosed with a rare heart disease, amyloid cardiomyopathy, and was given six months to live in 2018. A healer and lifelong student of the human heartbeat, he continued to research his condition until he passed away 2021, to the grief of his wide community of students, collaborators, and peers. 

 

Press

‘Greater New York,’ a Show of the Moment, Dwells in the Radical Past

By Martha Schwendener

The New York Times

October 7, 2021

Good Vibrations and Milford Graves's Healing Harmonics

By Annabel Keenan

Hyperallergic

June 28, 2021

Milford Graves at Fridman Gallery

Noah Becker

Art World: Whitehot Magazine with Noah Becker

June 23, 2021

Milford Graves Mind – Body Connections

By Sofia Balestrin

Metal Magazine

June 14, 2021

The patterns are already there: remembering Milford Graves

The Wire

March 2021

Milford Graves, Singular Drummer and Polymath, Dies at 79
By Giovanni Russonello

The New York Times

February 19, 2021

ICA Philadelphia Reopens for Fall 2020 With Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal

Hyperallergic

September 25, 2020

A Jazz Drummer’s Fight to Keep His Own Heart Beating

The New York Times

August 5, 2020