Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

1,024

A Fireside Chat with Milford Graves

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
I have a certain kind of personality when I play tabla and a certain kind of personality when I play conga.
If you like the 'free jazz' or 'avant-garde' or 'loft' or 'downtown' or whatever other bullshit name they give this music, you are a fan of Milford Graves. You may not know it, but you are. Much like Henry Grimes, Graves is one of those musicians that those in the know, know and those in the, well, not know, don't. Albert Ayler's Love Cry, that's Graves. The killing ESP sessions, New York Art Quartet, Barrage, Giuseppi Logan Quartet, and Lowell Davidson Trio, that's Graves. And Sonny Sharrock's Black Woman, you get the picture. I was honored to speak with Graves, a musician I have long admired and never lived long enough in New York to see live. Folks, Milford Graves, unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.

MILFORD GRAVES: I had no special reason. From a talk with my parents, I was probably around two or three years old when I started hitting a drum. The drums were in the house and I tried to figure it out over the years, why did I enter music and why did I play the instrument that I play and I really can't come up with anything that would give me a definite reason why, other than that's what I was put on the planet to do.

FJ: Every child, at some point or another, plays drum hands, but only a very diminutive minority take up the art.

MG: I was in junior high school and I was playing for the assembly programs. I was asked to play for the special events that we had at our school. I formed a drum group and we had some dancers. We called it interpretive dancing at the time, but they were actually trying to do African dance. I realized that there was something happening when I would be playing before a bunch of my friends in an auditorium and that is when I started realizing it and started to get serious.

FJ: When did you begin studying the tabla?

MG: I started learning tabla in 1965 and I studied with Wasantha Singh.

FJ: Apart from aesthetics, what are the differences between a tabla and a conga?

MG: First of all, it is the make of the drum itself. The tabla is a much smaller instrument compared to the conga. The tabla is also played with each individual finger. You can do that with the congas too, but the congas really play with all the fingers really hitting at the same time. With tabla, the fingers are hitting at individual, different times. It is a sequence you do with each finger. The way that the tabla is made allows you to manipulate the skin to get these different kind of tonal properties out. That is really the big difference. I have a certain kind of personality when I play tabla and a certain kind of personality when I play conga.

FJ: Talk to me about your collaborations with the New York Art Quartet.

MG: That group started before me. I met that group in 1964. They had already had a group and J.C. Moses was the drummer before I was in that group. I met Roswell (Rudd) and John Tchicai through Guiseppi Logan and Guiseppi Logan asked me if I would like to a rehearsal of the New York Art Quartet, that he had met one of these guys and they invited him to a rehearsal and he told me to come along. The rehearsal was at a loft that was owned by Michael Snow, who is a Canadian artist. We went there and they played and asked Guiseppi if he wanted to sit in because he brought his alto saxophone. So he played and then he asked Roswell and John if I could play and then I played. J.C. Moses had left and they listened to the tape because they recorded the whole session and said that they liked what I was doing and if I would like to be the new drummer and that was it. John Tchicai is no longer a member of that band. At the present time, John Zorn is playing with the band. John Tchicai decided it was time for him to leave the band.

FJ: Guiseppi Logan is a free jazz urban legend. Is Logan dead or alive?

MG: Well, the reports that I've received is that he is still alive. He was spotted up in Harlem, New York. That's what people say. I don't know. I was approached to go up to Harlem to seek him out. Somebody spotted him in a hotel on 125th Street and I haven't had the opportunity to do that. Someone said they saw him, but I don't know. I wouldn't say that he is still alive. That was the latest on him. I last saw Guiseppi Logan in the Seventies and he wasn't in good shape. He was in the streets. He is a question mark whether he is still alive. Hopefully, he is. I was the one who told Bernard Stollman (founder of ESP) about Guiseppi Logan. I met Bernard Stollman through the New York Art Quartet. He wanted to record me and in turn, I told Guiseppi that I have some time because I'm a young guy and instead of me taking this record date and being the leader, I gave him the record date and so he took the record date. It was 1965 when we did that together.

FJ: And your work with Albert Ayler, who has in death become an underground superhero.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled, Grassroots Visionary Interviews
Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled,...
by Mike Jacobs
Published: December 10, 2018
Read Conor Murray & Micheal Murray: Putting Falcarragh On The Jazz Map Interviews
Conor Murray & Micheal Murray: Putting Falcarragh On...
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 29, 2018
Read Pete McCann: Mild-Mannered Superhero Guitarist Interviews
Pete McCann: Mild-Mannered Superhero Guitarist
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 28, 2018
Read Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller Interviews
Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: November 27, 2018
Read Phillip Johnston: Back From Down Under Interviews
Phillip Johnston: Back From Down Under
by Ken Dryden
Published: November 27, 2018
Read Anwar Robinson: From American Idol To United Palace Interviews
Anwar Robinson: From American Idol To United Palace
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: November 25, 2018
Read "Andreas Varady: Guitar Wizard On The Rise" Interviews Andreas Varady: Guitar Wizard On The Rise
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: June 18, 2018
Read "Val Wilmer: Dues And Testimony" Interviews Val Wilmer: Dues And Testimony
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 5, 2018
Read "Anat Cohen: Musical Zelig" Interviews Anat Cohen: Musical Zelig
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: June 21, 2018
Read "Jay Thomas: We Always Knew" Interviews Jay Thomas: We Always Knew
by Paul Rauch
Published: November 16, 2018
Read "George Wein: A Life and Legend in Jazz" Interviews George Wein: A Life and Legend in Jazz
by Doug Hall
Published: July 19, 2018
Read "Django Bates: Generous Abundance" Interviews Django Bates: Generous Abundance
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: June 22, 2018