Marcus Miller
Miller in 2009
Miller in 2009
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Henry Marcus Miller Jr.
Born (1959-06-14) June 14, 1959 (age 63)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, R&B, rock, funk, smooth jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, producer
Instrument(s)Bass, guitar, vocals, saxophone, clarinet, keyboards, recorder
Years active1975–present

William Henry Marcus Miller Jr. (born June 14, 1959)[1] is an American multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer best known for his work as a bassist. He has worked with trumpeter Miles Davis, pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn, among others.[2][3][4] His collaboration with Vandross was especially close: Miller co-produced and served as the arranger for most of Vandross's albums, and co-wrote (with Vandross) many of his songs, including the hits "I Really Didn't Mean It", "Any Love", "Power of Love/Love Power" and "Don't Want to Be a Fool". He also co-wrote the 1988 single "Da Butt" for Experience Unlimited. Miller was the main songwriter and producer on three of Miles Davis's albums: Tutu (1986), Music from Siesta (1987), and Amandla (1989).

Early life

Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York City,[1] and raised in a musical family. His father, William Miller, was a church organist and choir director; Miller is jazz pianist Wynton Kelly's cousin.[5] Miller 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 became a session musician. Miller's earliest influences include James Jamerson and Larry Graham.[6]


Miller in 2007
Miller in 2007

Miller spent approximately 15 years performing as a session musician. During that time he also arranged and produced frequently. He was a member of the Saturday Night Live band between 1979 and 1981. He co-wrote Aretha Franklin's "Jump To It" along with Luther Vandross. He has played bass on over 500 recordings, appearing on albums by such artists as Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, The Crusaders, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra, George Benson, Dr. John, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Joe Walsh, Jean-Michel Jarre, Grover Washington Jr., Donald Fagen, Bill Withers, Bernard Wright, Kazumi Watanabe, Chaka Khan, LL Cool J and Flavio Sala.[3][7][8] 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 mid-80s, Miller attempted a solo career as a funk/R&B singer, with the albums Suddenly (1983) and Marcus Miller (1984). He also served as the main songwriter, producer and instrumentalist on these albums. He has since then released ten more solo albums, although he has only occasionally sung on these subsequent albums.

Between 1988 and 1990, Miller was the musical director and house band bass player (in the "Sunday Night Band") during two seasons of the late-night TV show Sunday Night (also known as Night Music) on NBC, hosted by David Sanborn and Jools Holland.[9][10]

As a composer, Miller co-wrote and produced several songs on the Miles Davis album Tutu, including the title track.[11][12] 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.[3][7] In addition, he composed and provided spoken vocals on "Burn it Up", which was featured on Najee's 1992 album Just An Illusion.

In 1997, he played bass guitar and bass clarinet in the supergroup Legends, featuring Eric Clapton (guitars and vocals), Joe Sample (piano), David Sanborn (alto sax) and Steve Gadd (drums).[3] It was an 11-date tour of major jazz festivals in Europe. In 2008 Miller formed another supergroup, SMV, with fellow bassists Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten, for a world tour lasting 18 months.[13] He produced SMV's first release, Thunder.[14] In the summer of 2011, Miller toured alongside Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter celebrating Miles Davis on the 20th anniversary of his passing.

Miller 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.[15] 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, notably including films directed by Reginald Hudlin and Chris Rock.[16]

Awards and honors

Miller has been nominated for numerous Grammy Awards as a producer for Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chaka Khan and Wayne Shorter, and has won two Grammys. 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, .[17] His 2015 album Afrodeezia earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.[18][19]

Miller in 2017
Miller in 2017

In 2012 Miller was appointed a UNESCO Artist for Peace, supporting and promoting the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

In December 2021, Bass Player magazine awarded Miller a Lifetime Achievement Award.[20]


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.[21] 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.[22] Later, Fender moved the production of the four-string to their Mexico factory[23] 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.[24]

Marcus performing on his Renaissance tour at the Royal Festival Hall London, May 7, 2012
Marcus performing on his Renaissance tour at the Royal Festival Hall London, May 7, 2012

As of 2015, Dunlop has begun producing Marcus Miller Super Bright bass strings which Miller has switched to.[25] In 2015, Marcus began endorsing Sire Guitars, with whom he has a signature line of basses.[26]


As leader

Studio albums

Live albums

As sideman

Film scores

Media appearances

In 2017, Miller appeared on the Armenian talk show Nice Evening.


  1. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1694. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ "Marcus Miller, Live In Concert: Newport Jazz 2013". Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Marcus Miller". Hollywood Bowl. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  4. ^ "home". Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  5. ^ "Paul Chambers/John Coltrane: High Step (1956)" (March 2009) Down Beat. p. 34.
  6. ^ Shepherd, Rob (February 24, 2021). "Moving Foward: A Conversation with Marcus Miller (Part One)". Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Bio | Marcus Miller". Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Crusaders – Healing The Wounds". Discogs. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  9. ^ Sunday Night episodes No. 104 (1988), No. 121 (1989)
  10. ^ thebeijinger (October 20, 2014). "Interview: Jazz Bassist Marcus Miller Maps His Musical History". Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Larkin, Cormac. "Marcus Miller: 'I came of age during black power. I had no sense of inferiority'". The Irish Times. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  12. ^ Chinen, Nate (June 23, 2010). "Getting More From an Electric Miles Davis Model". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  13. ^ "Stanley Clarke/Marcus Miller/Victor Wooten: The Thunder Tour". LA Phil. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  14. ^ Jazz, All About (September 16, 2008). "S.M.V.: Thunder album review @ All About Jazz". All About Jazz. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  15. ^ "Marcus Miller – Host". SiriusXM. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  16. ^ See also interview on ABC Radio National Music Show with Andrew Ford Nov 2010
  17. ^ "Marcus Miller". November 19, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  18. ^ "UNESCO | Marcus Miller". Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  19. ^ "Grammy Nominations 2016: See the Full List of Nominees". Billboard. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  20. ^ "Buy Bass Player UK Single Issue from MagazinesDirect".
  21. ^ January 2020, Bass Player Staff08 (January 8, 2020). "Marcus Miller: keep 'em running". Bass Player. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  22. ^ Heckman, Don. "Marcus Miller: New York State of Mind". JazzTimes. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  23. ^ "Fender,com". Archived from the original on July 6, 2010. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  24. ^ Marcus Miller Fat Beams at Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  25. ^ Marcus Miller Super Bright Strings and Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  26. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Sire Revolution Official (October 20, 2016). "Sire Marcusmiller Interview". YouTube. Retrieved May 30, 2019.