Graves, who played with everyone from Albert Ayler to Lou Reed, died of congestive heart failure.
The free jazz drummer Milford Graves died today at age 79.
Born in 1941 in Jamaica, Queens, Graves was a free jazz pioneer, developing new percussive techniques alongside the likes of Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and John Zorn. Graves, who turned down an invitation from Miles Davis, pursued many other artistic mediums besides. The home he shared with his wife Lois in Queens was covered in decorative stones and surrounded by a garden in which he practiced his own form of martial arts, a discipline informed by the movement of the praying mantis as well as West African dance styles and the Lindy Hop.
For decades, Graves studied the heart's rhythms and pitches, recording over 5000 heartbeats. Graves theorized that musicians who incorporated the rhythm and prevalent pitches of their own hearts would make more personal music. In 2018, Graves was diagnosed with amyloid cardiomyopathy, sometimes known as stiff heart syndrome. "It turns out, I was studying the heart to prepare for treating myself," he told theNew York Times last year. Graves died today of congestive heart failure.
For more on Graves life, work and philosophy check out the 2018 documentary Full Mantis.