Marcus Miller Biography

In Bio, Chicago Song on February 18, 2012 at 12:16 am

Marcus Miller (born William Henry Marcus Miller Jr., June 14, 1959, Brooklyn, New York) is an American jazz composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Miller is best known as a bassist, working with trumpeter Miles Davis, pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn, as well as maintaining a prolific solo career. Miller is classically trained as a clarinetist and also plays keyboards, saxophone and guitar.

Life and career

Early life

Miller was born in 1959 and raised in a musical family that includes his father, William Miller (a church organist and choir director) and jazz pianist Wynton Kelly. By 13, Marcus was proficient on clarinet, piano and bass guitar, and already writing songs. Two years later he was working regularly inNew York City, eventually playing bass and writing music for jazz flautist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith. Miller soon became a first call session musician, gracing well over 500 albums, a short list of which includes Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Mariah Carey, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra, Dr. John, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Grover Washington Jr., Donald Fagen, Bill Withers, Chaka Khan, LL Cool J, Me’shell Ndegé Ocello and Flavio Sala.

Professional career

Miller at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, 2007

Miller spent approximately 15 years performing as a sideman or session musician, observing how band leaders operated. During that time he also did a lot of arranging and producing. He was a member of the Saturday Night Live band 1978-1979. He wrote the intro to Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Wanna Make It Up To You’. He has played bass on over 500 recordings including those of Luther Vandross, Grover Washington Jr., Roberta Flack, Carly Simon, McCoy Tyner, Bryan Ferry andBilly Idol. He won the “Most Valuable Player” award, (awarded by NARAS to recognize studio musicians) three years in a row and was subsequently awarded “player emeritus” status and retired from eligibility. In the nineties, Miller began to make his own records, putting a band together to take advantage of touring opportunities.

Miller’s proficiency on his main instrument, the bass guitar, is generally well-regarded. Not only has Miller been involved in the continuing development of the technique known as “slapping”, particularly his “thumb” technique, but his fretless bass technique has also served as an inspiration to many, and he has taken the fretless bass into musical contexts and genres previously unexplored. The influences of some of the previous generation of electric bass players, such as Larry Graham, Stanley Clarke, and Jaco Pastorius, are audible in Miller’s playing. Early in his career, Miller was accused of being simply imitative of Pastorius, but has since more fully integrated the latter’s methodology into his own sound.

Miller has an extensive discography, and tours frequently and widely in Europe and Japan.

Between 1988 and 1990 he appeared in the first season and again toward the end as both the musical director and also as the house band bass player in the Sunday Night Band during the two seasons of the acclaimed music performance program Sunday Night on NBC late-night television.

As a composer, Miller wrote “Tutu” for Miles Davis, a piece that defined Davis’s career in the late 1980s, and was the title track of Davis’s album Tutu, upon which Miller wrote all the songs with only two exceptions, and one of those was co-written with Davis. He also composed “Chicago Song” for David Sanborn and co-wrote “‘Til My Baby Comes Home”, “It’s Over Now”, “For You to Love”, and “Power of Love” forLuther Vandross. Miller also wrote “Da Butt”, which was featured in Spike Lee’s School Daze.

Personal life

Miller has a wife and four children: two daughters and two sons, one of whom, Jon, recently graduated from Columbia Universityand now works for radio and television host Glenn Beck.

Grammy Awards

Miller has won numerous Grammy Awards as a producer for Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chaka Khan andWayne Shorter. He won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1992, for Luther Vandross’ “Power of Love” and in 2001 he won for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for his fourth solo instrumental album, M2.

Miller currently has his own band. In 1997 he played bass and bass clarinet in a band called Legends, featuring Eric Clapton (guitars and vocals), Joe Sample (piano), David Sanborn (alto sax) and Steve Gadd (drums). It was an 11-date tour of major jazz festivals inEurope.

In addition to his recording and performance career, Miller has established a parallel career as a film score composer. He has written numerous scores for films featuring Eddie Murphy, L.L. Cool J, Chris Rock, Matthew Perry, Samuel L. Jackson and others. He composed the musical score for the Chris Rock-created sit-com, Everybody Hates Chris, now in syndication on Nick-At Nite.

Instruments and gear

He plays a 1977 Fender Jazz Bass that was modified by Roger Sadowsky with the addition of a Bartolini preamp so he could control his sound in the studio. Fender currently produces a Marcus Miller signature Fender Jazz Bass in four- (made in Japan) and five-string (made in U.S) versions.


Solo period (1982–present)

  • 1983: Suddenly
  • 1984: Marcus Miller
  • 1993: The Sun Don’t Lie
  • 1995: Tales
  • 1998: Live & More
  • 2000: Best of ’82-’96
  • 2001:  (2002 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album)
  • 2002: The Ozell Tapes – Live 2001
  • 2005: Silver Rain
  • 2007: Free
  • 2008: Marcus[4]
  • 2008: Thunder (as SMV, with Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten)
  • 2010: A Night in Monte Carlo – Live 2009
  • 2011: Tutu Revisited – Live 2010
  • 2012: tba

Luther Vandross period

  • 1983: “Busy Body”
  • 1985: “The Night I Fell In Love”
  • 1985: “‘Til My Baby Comes Home”
  • 1985: “It’s Over Now”
  • 1986: “I Really Didn’t Mean It”
  • 1986: “Never Too Much”
  • 1986: “She Won’t Talk To Me”
  • 1986: “Give Me the Reason”
  • 1987: “Stop to Love”
  • 1987: “See Me”
  • 1988: “Luther In Love – Megamix”
  • 1988: “Any Love”
  • 1989: “The Best of Love”
  • 1989: “Come Back”
  • 1991: “The Rush”
  • 1991: “Power of Love / Love Power (Uno Clio & Colin and Carl Remix)”
  • 1991: “Power of Love / Love Power”
  • 1991: “Power of Love”
  • 1993: “Never Let Me Go”
  • 1993: “Heaven Knows”
  • 1995: “This Is Christmas”
  • 1995: “Power of Love / Love Power (The Frankie Knuckles Mixes)”
  • 1996: “Your Secret Love”
  • 1996: “I Can Make It Better”
  • 1998: “I Know”
  • 2001: “Luther Vandross”
  • 2003: “Dance With My Father”
  • 2007: “Love, Luther”

Grover Washington jr period

  • 1984: Inside Moves

David Sanborn period (1975–2000)

  • 1977: Lovesongs
  • 1980: Hideaway
  • 1981: Voyeur
  • 1981: As We Speak
  • 1982: Backstreet
  • 1984: Straight to the Heart
  • 1987: Change of Heart
  • 1988: Close-Up
  • 1991: Another Hand
  • 1992: Upfront
  • 1994: Hearsay
  • 1995: Pearls
  • 1996: Songs from the Night Before
  • 1999: Inside

Miles Davis period (1980–1990)

  • 1981: The Man with the Horn
  • 1982: We Want Miles
  • 1983: Star People
  • 1986: Tutu
  • 1987: Music From Siesta
  • 1989: Amandla
  • 2002: The Complete Miles Davis at Montreux

The Jamaica Boys period (1986–1990)

  • 1987: The Jamaica Boys
  • 1989: The Jamaica Boys II: J. Boys

Film scores

  • 1990: “House Party” (featuring Kid & Play)
  • 1992: “Boomerang” (featuring Eddie Murphy)
  • 1994: “Above the Rim” (featuring Tupac Shakur)
  • 1994: “A Low Down Dirty Shame” (featuring Keenan Ivory Wayans)
  • 1996: “The Great White Hype” (featuring Samuel L. Jackson)
  • 1997: “The Sixth Man” (featuring Marlon Wayans)
  • 1999: “An American Love Story”
  • 2000: “The Ladies Man” (featuring Tim Meadows)
  • 2001: “The Trumpet of the Swan” (featuring Reese Witherspoon)
  • 2001: “The Brothers” (featuring Morris Chestnut)
  • 2001: “Two Can Play That Game” (featuring Vivaca Fox)
  • 2002: “Serving Sara” (featuring Matthew Perry)
  • 2003: “Deliver Us from Eva” (featuring L.L. Cool J)
  • 2003: “Head of State” (featuring Chris Rock)
  • 2004: “Breakin’ All the Rules” (featuring Jamie Foxx)
  • 2005: “King’s Ransom” (featuring Anthony Anderson)
  • 2006: “Save the Last Dance 2” (featuring Izabella Miko)
  • 2007: “I Think I Love My Wife” (featuring Chris Rock)
  • 2007: “This Christmas” (featuring Idris Elba)
  • 2008: “Thunder” (featuring Stanley Clark and Victor Wooten)
  • 2009: “Good Hair” (featuring Chris Rock as SMV)
  • 2009: “Obsessed” (featuring Beyoncé Knowles)

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