UC San Diego's Department of Music

November 20, 2008

  Bassist and composer Mel Graves, who studied with Bert Turetzky and other UCSD music faculty while earning a graduate degree in composition here, died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 8 at his home in Petaluma, California. He was 62.

Graves was on the music faculty at Sonoma State University, after teaching at UC Santa Cruz and Reed College in Oregon. He was a prolific composer and performer who wrote more than 100 jazz pieces and played and recorded with Mose Allison, Joe Henderson, James Newton, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, Roscoe Mitchell and many more. He also composed pieces for the Kronos Quartet, Chamber Music Northwest and the New England Woodwind Quintet, and performed with the San Diego Symphony.

Although prolific in his own music career, Graves had recently told his wife Susan that he was most proud of teaching his students "the real way to play jazz". In that role, he handed down some of the wisdom he gained from Turetzky, to whom he paid tribute with the tune For Bertram on his CD Ear Shot: The Music of Mel Graves.

Graves was honored a few days before his death with a concert at Sonoma State. The family suggests that memorial contributions go to the Mel Graves Jazz Scholarship Fund, Music Department, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA 94928.

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