Marcus Miller
Miller in 2007
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Henry Marcus Miller Jr.
Born (1959-06-14) June 14, 1959 (age 62)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, R&B, rock, funk, smooth jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, producer
InstrumentsBass, guitar, vocals, saxophone, clarinet, keyboards, recorder
Years active1975–present
Associated actsSMV, Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Eric Clapton, Bob James, Christian Scott, Lalah Hathaway, Meshell Ndegeocello

William Henry Marcus Miller Jr. (born June 14, 1959)[1] is an American film composer, jazz composer, record producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist, best known 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]

Life and career

Early life

Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York City, United States,[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]

Professional career

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 1979-1981. 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 nineties, Miller began to write his own music and make his own records, putting a band together and touring regularly.[7]

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 (later “Night Music”) on NBC late-night television, 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 a band called 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 SMV with 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 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.[15] 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.[16]

Awards and honors

Miller in 2009
Miller in 2009

Miller was nominated for numerous Grammy Awards as a producer for Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chaka Khan and Wayne Shorter and 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]

Miller in 2017
Miller in 2017

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 in 2016 for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.[18][19]

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

With Tom Browne

With The Crusaders

With Miles Davis

With Donald Fagen

With Aretha Franklin

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Dave Grusin

With The Jamaica Boys

With David Sanborn

With Wayne Shorter

With Lonnie Liston Smith

With Luther Vandross

With Grover Washington Jr. (1980–1986)

With Bernard Wright

With Don Cherry

With Jean Michel Jarre

Film scores


  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 c "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. "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.