Director Jake Meginsky presents his documentary on the renowned percussionist Milford Graves
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College invites the public to the next screening in the Whole Grain: Experiments in Film & Video: the documentary film Milford Graves Full Mantis on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m.
Filmmaker Jake Meginsky’s portrait of renowned percussionist Milford Graves explores the musician’s kaleidoscopic creativity and relentless curiosity. A discussion follows the screening between Meginsky and Carl Landa, the Musical Director of the Skidmore College Dance Department. Both Meginsky and Landa are Graves’s former students.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Tang Visitors Services Desk at 518-580-8080 or visit http://tang.skidmore.edu.
About the Film
Milford Graves Full Mantis is the first feature-length portrait of renowned percussionist Milford Graves. He has performed internationally since 1964, both as a soloist and in ensembles with such legends as Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan, and Sonny Sharrock. He is a founding pioneer of avant-garde jazz, and he remains one of the most influential living figures in the evolution of the form. The film draws the viewer through the artist’s lush garden and ornate home, into the martial arts dojo in his backyard and the laboratory in his basement — all just blocks from where he grew up in the housing projects of South Jamaica, Queens. Graves tells stories of discovery, struggle and survival, ruminates on the essence of “swing,” activates electronic stethoscopes in his basement lab to process the sound of his heart, and travels to Japan where he performs at a school for children with autism, igniting the student body into an ecstatic display of spontaneous collective energy. Oscillating from present to past and weaving intimate glimpses of the artist’s complex cosmology with blistering performances from around the globe, Milford Graves Full Mantis is cinema full of fluidity, polyrhythm and intensity, embodying the essence of Graves’ music itself.
About Milford Graves
Milford Graves is a percussionist, acupuncturist, herbalist, martial artist, programmer, and professor. In 1945 Graves started playing on some odd drums left at his parents’ house by a tenant (he still rarely plays with a kit). In 1964 he met the New York Art Quartet at Michael Snow’s loft for an impromptu rehearsal and they asked him to join. He famously held court five nights straight, three sets a night, with Albert Ayler at Slugs in 1967. On July 21 of that same year, he played at John Coltrane’s funeral, and Dizzy Gillespie, who couldn’t see the balcony where the band was, asked loudly, “Who’s on drums?” Mention his name to anyone who follows free jazz, and they know him from recordings like Albert Ayler’sLove Cry and Sonny Sharrock’s Black Woman, as well as his concerts with Paul Bley and Don Pullen. In 1972 he invented a martial art called Yara based on the movements of the Praying Mantis, African ritual dance, and Lindy Hop. In 2000 he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and began to study human heart vibrations to better understand music’s healing potential. He received the 2015 Doris Duke Foundation Impact Award. Graves is Professor Emeritus at Bennington College, where he taught for forty years. Many of his former students still visit him in his basement office and studio in Jamaica, Queens, a space where his grandparents once had a community social club.
About Jake Meginsky
Composer/filmmaker Jake Meginsky, a New Music USA award winner and Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow in both music and film, has collaborated and performed with an extraordinary range of musicians including Milford Graves, Alvin Lucier, Joan La Barbara, Kim Gordon, Vic Rawlings, Greg Kelley, Bhob Rainey, Joe McPhee, Thurston Moore, William Parker, Daniel Carter, Paul Flaherty, John Truscinski, Arthur Brooks, and Bill Nace. His work has been presented widely and internationally. Meginsky has been reviewed extensively in leading contemporary music, art and culture publications worldwide. In 2018 Artforum Magazine wrote, “On recent releases, Meginsky juggles off-kilter patterns of undulating bass, prickly sine pulses, and shards of white noise to build rhythmic worlds of dizzying density, depth, and textural variety.” About Milford Graves Full Mantis, The New York Times called it a “stunning documentary” and “this movie gives you the man’s heart, and it’s a beautiful one.” Meginsky frequently collaborates with choreographers and has worked with Cori Olinghouse, Paul Matteson, Stuart Singer, Jennifer Nugent, Susan Sgorbati, Katie Martin, Wendy Woodson and Nora Chipaumire. His recordings can be found on NNA (Burlington, VT), Mantile (London), Second Sleep (Milan), Feeding Tube Records (Northampton, MA), Rel Records (Providence, RI), Open Mouth Records (Northampton, MA), Wooden Finger Records (Belgium), Ultra Eczema Records (Belgium), and Ecstatic Peace Records (London/Northampton). He recently remixed Body/Head’s (Kim Gordon & Bill Nace) “Last Mistress” for Matador Records (NYC). His latest solo LP, Gates and Variations, was released on Open Mouth Records.
About Carl Landa
Carl Landa is the Musical Director of the Skidmore College Dance Department. He teaches Music for Dancers, accompanies modern and ballet classes, and composes and records music for students, faculty, and guest artists. Before joining the Skidmore College faculty in 2000 he was an accompanist at the Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance, the Merce Cunningham School, the Julliard School, Purchase College, and many private dance studios in New York City. Carl’s original scores have been used by Complexions Dance Company, Battleworks, and many colleges and universities including the Alvin Ailey School, The University of Richmond, and Long Island University. Carl has been on the faculty of the Bates Dance Festival since 2001.
About the Tang Teaching Museum
The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the institution’s approach has become a model for university art museums across the country—with exhibition programs and series that bring together the visual and performing arts with fields of study as disparate as history, astronomy, and physics. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, the Mellon Seminar, and robust publication and touring exhibition initiatives that extend the institution’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of ideas and exchange the institution catalyzes. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 pm, with extended hours until 9 pm Thursday. More information at http://tang.skidmore.edu.