Milford lived every moment of his life using all of his god-given abilities and instincts; searching and discovering his purpose in life. Then, living inside that purpose: music healing, singing a song inspired by the elders from Africa to South Carolina to Jamaica, Queens. A grandfather’s song. In this last period he didn’t stop exploring — he never gave up. Baba Milford Graves was something else; as anyone who met him could attest to. His creative spirit was unstoppable. An extraordinary human being who in his last period moved into visual art which was always there if you checked out the house and the colorful hieroglyphics on his drum set. We knew a little, but there so much we didn’t know about him that was just being revealed. - William Parker
Milford Graves has left this world on February 12. Yet we remember what Professor Graves, Drummer Graves, Healer Graves, Scientist Graves taught us, how he taught, and how he lived. He never stopped until his physical heart insisted on the afternoon of February 12th that it was done beating. But he didn't leave us until he could go on no more. Every time he played the drums he played until it was done, until the healing music was done, for that day. He lived his whole life in Jamaica, Queens. He met and married his high school sweetheart and raised 5 children. He made his home into an art installation. He kept a garden, planting and harvesting healing herbs that he made into tinctures. As long as his heart was beating, he pursued science to heal. He was a trained and practiced acupuncturist. He created his own form of martial arts that he taught to young people in his neighborhood, until they were no longer young. He played the drums inspiring and healing those whose ears and hearts were open.
Milford Graves will never leave our hearts. Milford Graves's music, art, science and movement was based on the understanding that the Heart must always be the center of the music. His Life example is of one who always is reaching to go further, to do more, to learn, to keep growing, to not be confined or constrained but to pursue knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. He showed us that our healthy hearts not only have a regular beat, each one of our hearts has its own unique, multi-rhythmic dance. In the end his - as does everyone's physical heart – has stopped beating. But the echoes of its rhythms, in his drumming and his science and his healing energy and ideas will be with us as long as our hearts are beating.
Milford Graves and Andrew Cyrille recount stories on how they first met, and the two drummers continue a decades long collaboration with a duet at Cyrille’s Lifetime Achievement celebration at the Vision Festival..More
Milford Graves was the featured performer for the First Annual Vision Festival in 1996. He was a core Vision Artist who performed at almost every Vision Festival. On June 12, 2013 he received the LifeTime Achievement Award. In 2018, Jake Meginsky's “Milford Graves Full Mantis” biopic came out to rave reviews. His scientific work on stem cells with doctors in Italy continues to move forward. His life work that brought together art, science and drumming is being showcased in art museums.
The Vision Festival is the world's premier showcase of Free Jazz music, dance, poetry, and visual art.