Milford Graves

Doris Duke Impact Award, 2015

New York, NY

Milford Graves began playing drums at age two. In the seven decades since, he has been at the forefront of the American jazz avant-garde working with other greats, such as Anthony Braxton and William Parker. A percussionist known for layering irregular musical textures and natural sounds, he has extensively researched the rhythms of the body, particularly those of the heart. His work also often synthesizes music therapy with free improvisation. He has lectured on topics such as herbology, acupuncture, and body movement, and in 1973 became Professor of Music at Bennington College in Vermont, teaching jazz improvisation and musical healing practices. He received the NYC Vision Festival Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and headlined the first-ever Brandeis Improv Festival at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. His latest album, Space/Time - Redemption (TUM, 2015), features meditative, electronically-processed duets with bassist Bill Laswell.

  • Music from Heart Sounds of 4 Musicians 1 (2014)
  • Milford Graves - A Music Journey (2014)

Thinking back to the start of your career, what is the most useful advice you ever received?

The greatest advice that I received in the beginning of my career was to be resolute and a disciplined hard worker. It was highly emphasized to me that the foregoing are important qualities that are necessary to develop creative and innovative skills—that was something I wanted to do. I was also advised that I should develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle to support the mental and physical energy that should be needed to optimize my creative and innovative skills.