The pioneering free jazz drummer Milford Graves, who was credited with transforming the role from metronome to musician, has died aged 79, NPR has confirmed. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.
Musicians including Vijay Iyer, Superchunk, Oren Ambarchi, Moor Mother, Clipping and Ryley Walker paid tribute to Graves. Jazz critic Nate Chinen said he was “a creative galaxy in human form. Unfolding possibility in every molecule.”
In 2018 Graves was diagnosed with amyloid cardiomyopathy, also known as stiff heart syndrome, and given six months to live. The Queens-born musician had studied the heartbeat as a source of rhythm since the 1970s, encouraging other players to incorporate the tempo of their pulse into their performance.
“It’s like some higher power saying: ‘OK, buddy, you wanted to study this, here you go,” he told the New York Times soon after his diagnosis. “Now the challenge is inside of me.”