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Milford Graves

Milford Graves has been among the flashiest drummers in the free mode, known for skillful inclusion of Asian and African rhythmic ingredients into his solos. He studied Indian music extensively, including learning the tabla from Wasantha Singh. He has unfortunately not recorded much, especially on American labels. Graves played congas as a child, then switched to trap drums at 17 before his tabla studies with Singh. During the '60s, Graves worked with Giuseppi Logan and the New York Art Quartet. He recorded on ESP in the mid-'60s with Logan, and was an original member of the Jazz Composers' Orchestra Association. Graves also played with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba in the early '60s. His appearance in the Bill Dixon-sponsored concert series the October Revolution in Jazz helped introduce Graves to a wider audience. He did two albums of duets with pianist Don Pullen at Yale in 1966. Graves worked regularly with Albert Ayler in 1967 and 1968, performing at the 1967 Newport Festival. He also played with Hugh Glover and worked in a duo with Andrew Cyrille. During the '70s, Graves participated in a series of mid-'70s concerts called Dialogue of the Drums with Cyrille and Rashied Ali, including several shows in black neighborhoods. Graves taught at Bennington College alongside Bill Dixon in the '70s, and toured Europe and Japan. During the '80s, he played in percussion ensembles with Cyrille, Kenny Clarke, and Don Moye. Philly Joe Jones later replaced Clarke.

The late '90s found Graves enjoying a revival, collaborating with younger musicians, including John Zorn, and recording albums for his Tzadik label. In 2000, the New York Art Quartet's first recording in decades, 35th Reunion, was released by DIW. ~ Ron Wynn, All Music Guide

If somehow we forgot about the fact that he helped lead a musical revolution in jazz in the '60's (where he led his own ensembles and worked with Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Don Pullen and many others), Professor Milford Graves still would be greatly admired for his steady, long-time dedication to the field of music therapy. A tenured teacher at Bennington College for over a quarter of a century, he has also done extenstive work as an acupunturist, herbalist and leader of the non-profit organization the International Center for Medicinal an Scientific Research. His latest release, Grand Unification on Tzadik, serves as something of an audio document of some of his work in this field.

"People come over to me after. They don't just tell me 'wow, you're a great musician.' Which is great- because I know that they didn't get it if they tell me that. But when they tell me 'I came in here and I was all uptight and I didn't even feel like coming to this concert, now I'm so glad I came here. You made me feel the way I'm supposed to feel.' They'd be smiling. You could see them open up and sparkle. That's great."

"In Florida, one of the women there where I lectured at the schools said 'your particular lectures were the best.' She looked at these high school kids that she knew and she said 'you got them smiling when they never smiled.' All the kids were laughing and they were doing stuff that they didn't even know they could do. It brought out that kind of greater imagination."

"The ultimate thing that I'm trying to do, and a lot of people don't like the music because it deals with vibrations and it's got the stimulators, is more people thinking in a more creative way for a kind of greater imagination. Then you have a greater amount of people trying to solve all these problems that we have on the planet. I'm not trying to clone people. When I hear that I've gotten people to be more serious about what they're doing, that means that I've helped them tap their own creativity and their own spirit and give them some kind of hope. When people tell me that, then I know that's what's supposed to be done. Everybody has something that can make that whole total thing happen. The thing that can make us as a whole people- everybody's got a part of the whole."

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