Marcus Miller is a multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz musician, composer,
producer, and multi-instrumentalist.
Miller is best known as a bassist, working with trumpeter Miles Davis,
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.
3-Color Sunburst Maple
Olympic White Maple
As a child, Miller was around music a lot and always fooling around on the
piano: His father played piano and organ (mainly in church). His father's
family also includes cousin Wynton Kelly, a very influential jazz pianist
who played with Miles Davis in the late fifties. At the age of eight Miller
began playing the recorder, and the clarinet at age ten at the public
schools he attended. In middle school, he learned to play the saxophone as
well. Miller went to the High School of Music and Art (now the Laguardia
School of Performing Arts), where he majored in the clarinet. As a teenager,
Miller bought sheet music to popular songs, longing to play them. His father
would teach him how to read the guitar chord symbols and make up his own
accompaniment. At the same time, Miller was playing bass in some funk bands
in his neighborhood, learning about funk and grooves, and relating to people
He subsequently went to Queens College, NY, majoring in music education, and
business education and continued on clarinet there. Miller also participated
in a jazz ensemble there, under the direction of Bud Johnson. During college
Miller began to get a lot of work as a musician in New York on bass. Already
very much in demand after four years, he decided to discontinue at Queens
College and work full time.
Miller spent approximately 15 years performing as a sideman or session
musician and observing how great bandleaders operated. During that time he
also did a lot of arranging and producing. During the late seventies he was
a member of the Saturday Night Live band from 1978 through 1979. He played
on over 500 recordings, including those by Luther Vandross, Grover
Washington Jr., Roberta Flack, Carly Simon, McCoy Tyner, Bryan Ferry and
Billy 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 record his own records, he had to put 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 a technique known as "slapping", particularly his "thumb"
technique, but his fretless bass technique has also served as an inspiration
to many, and has taken the fretless bass into musical situations and genres
previously unexplored with the electric bass of any description. 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.
As a composer, Miller wrote "Tutu" for Miles Davis, a piece that defined
Davis' career in the late 1980s, and was the title song of Davis' album,
Tutu, upon which Miller wrote all the songs with only two exceptions. (One
was co-written with Davis, however.) 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 "The Power of Love" for Luther Vandross. Miller also wrote
"Da Butt", which was featured in Spike Lee's School Daze.