Born: June 14, 1959 Primary Instrument: Bass, electric
Marcus Miller, winner of the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album of 2001, was born in Brooklyn in 1959 and raised in Jamaica, New York. He came from a musical family and was influenced early on by his father, a church organist and choir director, as well as his musical extended family (which included the extraordinary Wynton Kelly, jazz pianist for Miles Davis during the late fifties and early sixties!). He displayed an early affinity for all types of music. By the age of thirteen he was already proficient on the clarinet, piano, and bass guitar and had begun composing music. The bass guitar, however, was his love and by the age of fifteen, he was working regularly in New York City with various bands. Soon thereafter, he was playing bass and writing music for flutist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith
Miller spent the next few years as a top call New York studio musician, working with Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Grover Washington Jr., Bob James and David Sanborn, among others. He has appeared as a bassist on over 400 records including recordings by artists as diverse as Joe Sample, McCoy Tyner, Mariah Carey, Bill Withers, Elton John, Bryan Ferry, Frank Sinatra, and LL Cool J.
In 1981, he joined his boyhood idol Miles Davis and spent two years on the road with the fabled jazzman. He didn't settle for anything mediocre, Miller recalls. And this helped me develop my style. I learned from him that you have to be honest about who you are and what you do. If you follow that, you won't have problems.
Miller subsequently turned his attention to producing, his first major production being David Sanborn's Voyeur, which earned Sanborn a Grammy and turned out to be the beginning of a career-long partnership with the alto saxman. Miller later produced various other top selling albums for Sanborn, including Close Up, Upfront, and 2000 Grammy winner Inside.
For more than twenty years, Miller has also enjoyed a musical relationship with R&B legend, Luther Vandross. We met in 79 in Roberta Flack's band and instantly connected because we were both so serious about music, Miller recalls. Over the years, Miller has contributed countless hits to Vandross repertoire both as a producer and writer. Those songs include Till My Baby Comes Home, It's Over Now, Any Love, I m Only Human, and The Power of Love, which won the 1991 Grammy for R&B Song of the Year.
In 1986, Miller collaborated again with Miles Davis, producing the landmark Tutu album, the first of three Davis albums he would produce. He has also produced Al Jarreau, the Crusaders, Wayne Shorter, Take 6, Chaka Khan, and Kenny Garrett among others, and Luther Vandross.
After spending many years as a producer and session musician, Miller focused on his solo career in late 1993 with the release of The Sun Don't Lie. 1995's Tales found Miller re-imagining the landscape of Black music and its evolution over the past three decades. After years of touring and in response to Miller fans pleas, Live & More was released in 1997.
M2 (M-squared), his first release of the new millennium, won the 2001 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and was selected by Jazziz as one of the 10 Best CDs of the Year. 3 Deuces Records now debuts The Ozell Tapes: The Official Bootleg, a live double CD. The Ozell Tapes is Miller's compilation of the best of his 2002 tour dates. It's raw, unadulterated, pure funk as only Marcus can do it.
In the past several years, Miller has also turned his attention to film scoring, composing for House Party (Martin Lawrence), Boomerang (Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry), Siesta (Ellen Barkin), Ladies' Man (Tim Meadows), and The Brothers (Morris Chestnut and D.L. Hughley) and Deliver Us From Eva (LL Cool J). He wrote and produced the old school hit, Da Butt for Spike Lee's School Daze soundtrack. Miller further surprised people by composing and performing the score to E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan. I loved getting the opportunity to use jazz to tell a story to kids. Children have much more sophisticated ears than people give them credit for. You really don't have to play down to them. Just keep the music real.
Whether he's making music for kids or longtime fans, keeping it real is the criteria that steers all of Marcus Miller's music. I like to keep things balanced, combining R&B, jazz, funk and movie stuff to help reflect what's happening in our world. I just try to keep challenging myself to continue to grow and get better.