Happy Birthday to Marcus Miller, born William Henry Marcus Miller, Jr.; June 14, 1959 | Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller, born William Henry Marcus Miller, Jr., is an American jazz composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, best known as a bass guitarist. He has worked with trumpeter Miles Davis, pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn.

Life and career

Early life

Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York City, 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. He is classically trained as a clarinetist and also plays keyboards, saxophone and guitar. He began to work regularly in New York City, eventually playing bass and writing music for jazz flutist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith. Miller soon became a session musician, appearing on over 500 albums by such artists as Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Mariah Carey, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra, George Benson, Dr. John, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Joe Walsh, Grover Washington, Jr., Donald Fagen, Bill Withers, Kazumi Watanabe, Chaka Khan, LL Cool J and Flavio Sala.

Professional career

After being discovered by Michal Urbaniak in 1975, Miller spent approximately 15 years performing as a 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 1988–1989. 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 and Billy Idol. He won the “Most Valuable Player” award (given 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 write his own music and make his own records, putting a band together and touring regularly.

Between 1988 and 1990 he appeared regularly both as a musical director and also as the house band bass player in the Sunday Night Band during two seasons of Sunday Night on NBC late-night television.

As a composer, Miller co-wrote several songs on the Miles Davis album Tutu, including its title track. 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” for Luther Vandross. Miller also wrote “Da Butt”, which was featured in Spike Lee’s School Daze.

Miller currently has his own band. In 1997 he played bass guitar 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 in Europe.

Miller also hosts a jazz history and influences show called Miller Time with Marcus Miller on the Real Jazz channel of Sirius XM Holdings satellite radio system.

In addition to his recording and performance career, Miller has established a parallel career as a film score composer (see listing below), having written numerous scores for films.

Awards and recognition

Miller has won numerous Grammy Awards as a producer for Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chaka Khan and Wayne 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 seventh solo instrumental album, M².

In 2012 Miller was appointed an UNESCO Artist for Peace supporting and promoting the UNESCO Slave Route Project. His 2015 album, Afrodeezia, earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.[


Miller is noted for playing 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 started to produce a Marcus Miller signature Fender Jazz Bass in four-string (made in Japan) and five-string (made in U.S) versions. Later, Fender moved the production of the four-string to their Mexico factory and discontinued both four- and five-string models in 2015. DR Strings also produced a series of Marcus Miller signature stainless steel strings known as “Fat Beams”, which come in a variety of sizes.

As of 2015, Dunlop has begun producing Marcus Miller Super Bright bass strings which Miller has switched to. In 2015, Marcus began endorsing Sire Guitars.


As leader

1983: Suddenly
1984: Marcus Miller
1993: The Sun Don’t Lie
1995: Tales
1998: Live & More
2000: Best of ’82–’96
2001: M²
2002: The Ozell Tapes Live: The Official Bootleg
2004: Dreyfus Night in Paris (with Michel Petrucciani, Biréli Lagrène, Kenny Garrett and Lenny White, recorded in 1994)
2005: Silver Rain
2006: Power – Essential of Marcus
2006: Another Side of Me
2007: Free
2008: Marcus
2008: Panther – Live
2008: Thunder (with SMV)
2008: The Other Tapes
2010: A Night in Monte Carlo – Live 2009
2011: Tutu Revisited – Live 2010
2012: Renaissance
2012: Live in Lugano – July 2008
2015: Afrodeezia
As sideman

With Luther Vandross

1981: Never Too Much
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: “Give Me the Reason”
1987: “Stop to Love”
1987: “See Me”
1988: “Luther in Love – Megamix”
1988: “Any Love”
1988: “She Won’t Talk to Me”
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”

With Grover Washington Jr (1980–1984)

1980: Winelight
1981: Come Morning
1982: The Best Is Yet to Come
1984: Inside Moves

With David Sanborn (1975–2000)

1980: Hideaway
1981: Voyeur
1981: As We Speak
1982: Backstreet
1984: Straight to the Heart
1986: Double Vision (with Bob James)
1987: Change of Heart
1988: Close-Up
1991: Another Hand
1992: Upfront
1994: Hearsay
1995: Pearls
1995: Lovesongs
1996: Songs from the Night Before
1999: Inside

With Miles Davis (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

With Dizzy Gillespie

Closer to the Source (Atlantic, 1984)

With Dave Grusin

1980: Mountain Dance

With The Jamaica Boys (1986–1990)

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

With Bernard Wright

1981: Nard

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 LL 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 and SMV)
2009: Obsessed (featuring Beyoncé Knowles)

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