Mulgrew Miller RIP

Mulgrew Miller RIP

Mulgrew Miller was one of our times finest pianists!


For me Mulgrew Miller was a great pianist, solo artist and a wonderful musician and sideman. The similarities with his influencer Oscar Peterson, is not an understatement. Mulgrew Miller was in his own division.

I remember when I listened to Jazz at the Philarmonics (Norman Grantz baby) in Stockholm for about 10 years ago. In the band there was this huge pianist together with Steve Turre on trombone and shells and Jesse Davis (a fantastic alto saxophone player).

I have many records with Mulgrew Miller and all of them are great! That is how a wonderful musician he was. Below you can find some more reading about Mulgrew Miller, inclusive video clips and I hope you will find out more about him from now on.

Mulgrew Miller (August 13, 1955 – May 29, 2013), RIP!


Below are some tasteful video clips with Mulgrew Miller:


Mulgrew Miller demonstrating comping and solo on the chord changes of the famous song “All The Things You Are” at his Piano Master Class at The Center For Jazz Studies Tel Aviv, June 05.2012


Jazz Legend Mulgrew Miller performs at Kitanos with Steve Nelson Vibraphone in NYC and talks about being an Artist


Jazz in Marciac 1999, Jazz Trumpet Summit – What A Wonderful World (comp. R. Thiele)

MUSICIANS: Roy Hargrove – trumpet, Mulgrew Miller – piano, Pierre Boussaguet – double bass, Alvin Queen – percussion


Mulgrew Miller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller.jpg


Miller in 2004
Background information
Born August 13, 1955
GreenwoodMississippi, U.S.
Died May 29, 2013 (aged 57)
AllentownPennsylvania, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupations Musiciancomposer
Instruments Piano
Years active 1970s–2013
Labels LandmarkNovusMaxjazz
Associated acts Art BlakeyWoody ShawTony Williams

Mulgrew Miller (August 13, 1955 – May 29, 2013) was an American jazz pianist. Miller’s style was influential in jazz during the 1980s and 90s, and was in the tradition of Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner. Miller appeared on more than 400 albums.



Early life

Mulgrew Miller was born in GreenwoodMississippi, to parents who had been raised on plantations. He had three brothers and four sisters. His family was not musical, but they had a piano, which no-one in the house could play. Miller, however, played tunes on the piano from the age of six, playing by ear. He had piano lessons from the age of eight. As a child, he played blues and rhythm and blues for dances, and gospel music in a church. His family was Methodist, but he played in churches of various denominations. His principal influence on piano at this stage was Ramsey Lewis.While at high school, he formed a trio that played at cocktail parties. His elder brother recommended that he listen to pianist Oscar Peterson, but there was no way of doing this in Greenwood until Peterson appeared onThe Joey Bishop Show on television when Miller was about 14. After watching Peterson’s performance, Miller decided to become a pianist: “It was a life changing event. I knew right then that I would be a jazz pianist”. Miller later mentioned Art Tatum and Erroll Garner as piano influences during his teenage years. Years later, Miller reported that he always found that playing fast was easy, so playing slowly and with more control were what he had to work hardest on.

After graduating from Greenwood High School, Miller became a student at Memphis State University in 1973, attending with a band scholarship. He played euphonium, but, during his two years at the university, Miller met pianists Donald Brown and James Williams, who introduced him to the music of well-known players such as Wynton KellyBud Powell, and McCoy Tyner. Still at Memphis State, he attended a jazz workshop, where one of the tutors was his future bandleader, Woody Shaw, who stated that he would see Miller again in two years. Two years later, they did meet again, and Shaw remembered Miller. After leaving university in 1975, Miller took lessons privately in Boston with Madame Margaret Chaloff, who had taught many of the pianists that Miller admired. He later commented that, “I should have stayed with her longer, […] but at that time I was so restless, constantly on the move.” While in Boston that winter, Miller was invited to Los Angeles by a school friend and decided to go, to escape the northern cold. He stayed on the West Coast for a year, playing locally in clubs and a church.


Near the end of 1976 Miller was invited to substitute for the regular pianist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra (led by Mercer Ellington). He had done the same thing for one weekend around a year earlier, and the new work was to be for only three weeks, but Miller ultimately toured with the orchestra for almost three years. He left in January 1980, after being recruited by vocalistBetty Carter, with whom he toured for eight months in 1980. He was then part of Shaw’s band from 1981 to 1983, thereby, in Miller’s view, fulfilling his destiny from their earlier meetings. In 1981 he made his studio recording debut, on Shaw’s United.During the early 1980s he also accompanied vocalist Carmen Lundy, and played and recorded with saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Miller was recommended to join Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers by Blakey members Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison, and he stayed in the drummer’s band from 1983 to 1986. Initially, he struggled to fit in with Blakey dominating the rhythm section, but stated that, over his period with the band, “My playing just generally matured. I don’t think one single characteristic changed, but the experience certainly boosted my confidence”. At times during concert performances, Miller was allotted a solo piano spot, which he used to play medleys. His presence in the Jazz Messengers cemented his reputation within jazz. A review of a solo concert in 1986 noted that his playing showed the influence of Powell on some numbers and Kelly on others, but that, overall, Miller was developing “his own, authoritative style”.

After leaving Blakey, Miller was pianist in Tony Williams‘ quintet from its foundation in 1986 until the drummer’s death, in 1997. Miller remained busy between tours with Williams’ band, in part by touring in a group known as “Trio Transition”, with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Freddie Waits. He also played on the first three albums recorded by Williams bandmate Wallace Roney(1987–89), and a large number of albums recorded by other leaders in the 1980s. The influence of Williams continued into Miller’s own projects, including their compositions and arrangements: The Guardian reviewer of Miller’s Hand in Hand (1992) commented that “it’s his occasional boss, drummer Tony Williams, who has made the strongest impression on the way he organises the material. The opening “Grew’s Tune” and the bluesier numbers would slot unnoticed into the Williams library.” In 1992 Miller also toured domestically and internationally with the “New York Jazz Giants”, a septet containing John Faddis, Bobby Watson, Carl Allen, Tom Harrell, Lew Tabackin, and Ray Drummond. Miller continued to accompany vocalists, including on recordings withDianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson. In 1989 he joined three other pianists in recording a CD tribute to Memphis pianistPhineas Newborn, Jr. This group, the “Contemporary Piano Ensemble”, performed intermittently until 1996, often playing together on four separate pianos. In 1997 Miller went on tour in Japan with 100 Golden Fingers, a troupe of 10 pianists.

In 1987 Miller formed his own band, named “Wingspan”, as, he explained, “sort of a dedication to the legacy of Charlie Parker– Bird, you know.” It became one of Miller’s main bands, enduring through changes of personnel, and featured a lot of his compositions in its performances. He made over 15 albums under his own name during his career, beginning with Keys to the City in 1985. There were also four live albums in the early 2000s: Live at The Kennedy Center Vol. 1 and Live at The Kennedy Center Vol. 2 (2002), with Derrick Hodge (bass) and Rodney Green (drums); and Live at Yoshi’s Vol. 1 and Live at Yoshi’s Vol. 2(2003), with Hodge and Karriem Riggins (drums). His last working trio consisted of Ivan Taylor on bass and Green on drums.

In 1990 Miller traveled to the Soviet Union to appear as pianist in saxophonist Benny Golson‘s band at the first Moscow International Jazz Festival.

For several years after he had turned 40, Miller decided to concentrate on composing and playing his own music. He therefore reduced his recording and club appearances, as well as one-day associations. Miller joined bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen in 1999 to record duets based on performances by Duke Ellington and Jimmy Blanton. The pair toured Europe the following year, with drummer Alvin Queen added for some concerts. In 2002 Miller’s discography as leader began to expand again, as Maxjazz began to release recordings, mostly from concerts.

In 2002 Miller joined bassist Ron Carter‘s Golden Striker Trio, with guitarist Russell Malone. The trio occasionally toured internationally for the next decade. In the mid-2000s, Miller joined bassist Dave Holland‘s group, changing it from a quintet to a sextet. Around this time, Miller had two regular bands of his own: a piano trio, and a quintet featuring saxophone and vibraphone. In 2006 Lafayette College awarded him an honorary doctorate in Performing Arts.

Miller almost never transcribed recordings (something that jazz musicians are typically taught to do); he credited this with slowing his learning process, but also with allowing him to express himself more freely, as he reached his own understanding of the compositions he played.

Miller lived in Palmer TownshipLehigh ValleyPennsylvania from 1989. He was the Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University from 2005, and the Artist in Residence at Lafayette College in 2008. His only solo album, a 2000 concert recording entitled Solo, was released in 2010 and was well received by critics for the imagination and harmonic development in Miller’s playing.

In 2010 Miller had a minor stroke. After this, he took medicine, changed his diet and lost weight. In 2012 he performed as a piano duo with Kenny Barron, continuing an association that had begun some years earlier. Although he had appeared to reduced his touring and recording, Miller was admitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital, near Allentown, Pennsylvania, on May 24, 2013, and died there, as a result of another stroke, on May 29. He was survived by his wife, son, daughter, and grandson.

Personal life and personality

Miller married on August 14, 1982. He was quiet and gentle; “A modest man, with a self-deprecating sense of humour”. Miller described his own attitude towards music in a 2005 interview:

I worked hard to maintain a certain mental and emotional equilibrium. It’s mostly due to my faith in the Creator. I don’t put all my eggs in that basket of being a rich and famous jazz guy. That allows me a certain amount of freedom, because I don’t have to play music for money. I play music because I love it.

Playing style and influence

Miller had a strong reputation with fellow musicians. Pianist Geoffrey Keezer was convinced that he wanted to be a pianist after attending a performance by Miller in 1986. Vibraphonist Warren Wolf stated that Miller helped him early in his career, including by being a link to jazz history: “you’re getting that experience of playing with Art Blakey, that attitude of ‘Yes, it’s my band, but you have to give other people a chance to shine.'” Robert Glasper also cited Miller as an influence, and wrote and recorded “One for ‘Grew” as a tribute.

Ted Panken observed in 2004 that Miller “finds ways to conjure beauty from pentatonics and odd intervals, infusing his lines with church and blues strains and propelling them with a joyous, incessant beat.” Critic John Fordham commented that Miller’s “melodic fluency and percussive chordwork […] recalled Oscar Peterson […but] with glimpses of the harmonically freer methods of McCoy Tyner”, and that Miller was much more than the hard bop player that he was often stereotyped as being. Miller himself attributed the lack of critical attention he received in comparison with more conceptual players to his style: “Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.” He also contrasted his own approach with that of performers who produced “interview music”: “something that’s obviously different, and you get the interviews and a certain amount of attention.”

Speaking in 2010, Miller commented on his approach to playing standards, which was more conservative than that of many others: “I believe in giving due respect to the melody, playing it as true as possible, […] a solo is a creative process that improves the melody.”

The obituary writer for Down Beat observed that “Miller could swing hard but maintained grace and precision with a touch and facility that influenced generations of musicians.” Ben Ratliff, writing for The New York Times, commented that, “As a composer, Mr. Miller is difficult to peg; like his piano playing, he’s a bit of everything.”


These lists exclude compilations.

As leader/co-leader

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1985 Keys to the City Landmark Trio, with Ira Coleman (bass), Marvin “Smitty” Smith (drums)
1986 Work Landmark Trio, with Charnett Moffett (bass), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums)
1987 Wingspan Landmark Sextet, with Kenny Garrett (flute, alto sax), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), Charnett Moffett (bass), Tony Reedus (drums), Rudy Bird (percussion)
1988 The Countdown Landmark Quartet, with Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums)
1988 Trio Transition with Special Guest Oliver Lake Disk Union As “Trio Transition” – with Reggie Workman (bass), Frederick Waits (drums); andOliver Lake (alto sax)
1990 From Day to Day Landmark Trio, with Robert Hurst (bass), Kenny Washington (drums)
1991 Time and Again Landmark Trio, with Peter Washington (bass), Tony Reedus (drums)
1992 Hand in Hand Novus Quintet to septet, with Kenny Garrett (soprano sax, alto sax), Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Eddie Henderson (trumpet, flugelhorn), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), Christian McBride (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
1993 With Our Own Eyes Novus Trio, with Richie Goods (bass), Tony Reedus (drums)
1995 Getting to Know You Novus Trio, with Richie Goods (bass), Karriem Riggins (drums); quintet with Big Black (conga), Steve Kroon (percussion) added on some tracks
1999 The Duets Bang & Olufsen Duo, with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass)
2000 Solo Space Time Solo; in concert; released 2010[52]
2002 The Sequel Maxjazz Sextet, with Steve Wilson (soprano sax, alto sax), Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), Richie Goods (bass), Karriem Riggins (drums)
2002 Live at the Kennedy Center Vol. 1 Maxjazz Trio, with Derrick Hodge (bass), Rodney Green (drums); in concert
2002 Live at the Kennedy Center: Vol. 2 Maxjazz Trio, with Derrick Hodge (bass), Rodney Green (drums); in concert
2003 Live at Yoshi’s, Vol. 1 Maxjazz Trio, with Derrick Hodge (bass), Karriem Riggins (drums); in concert
2003 Live at Yoshi’s, Vol. 2 Maxjazz Trio, with Derrick Hodge (bass), Karriem Riggins (drums); in concert
2012 Grew’s Tune Stunt With Klüver’s Big Band; in concert

As sideman

An asterisk (*) indicates that it is year of release, not recording.

Year recorded Leader Title Label
1993 Carl Allen The Dark Side of Dewey Evidence
2002 Karrin Allyson In Blue Concord
1990 Harold Ashby What Am I Here For? Criss Cross
1994 Gary Bartz The Red and Orange Poems Atlantic
1984 Art Blakey New York Scene Concord
1985 Art Blakey Blue Night Timeless
1985 Art Blakey Live at Kimball’s Concord
1985 Art Blakey Live at Sweet Basil Paddle Wheel
1985 Art Blakey Dr. Jeckyle Evidence
1985 Art Blakey New Year’s Eve at Sweet Basil Paddle Wheel
1983 Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison New York Second Line Concord
1984 Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison Discernment Concord
1986 Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison Nascence Columbia
1986 Hamiet Bluiett Last Night Just A Memory
2000 Gary Burton For Hamp, Red, Bags and Cal Concord
1987 Donald Byrd Harlem Blues Landmark
2008* Paul Carr Musically Yours PCJ
1992 Betty Carter It’s Not About the Melody Verve
2002 Ron Carter The Golden Striker Blue Note
2011* Ron Carter Great Big Band Sunnyside
2010 Ron Carter San Sebastian In + Out
1998 Joe Chambers Mirrors Blue Note
1989 The Contemporary Piano Ensemble Four Pianos for Phineas Evidence
1993 The Contemporary Piano Ensemble The Key Players Sony
1992 Eddie Daniels and Gary Burton Benny Rides Again Contemporary
1991* Jesse Davis Horn of Passion Concord
1997 Jesse Davis First Insight Concord
2005 The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band Dizzy’s Business Telarc
1999 The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars Dizzy’s World Shanachie
1989* The Duke Ellington Orchestra Music Is My Mistress Musicmasters
2000 John D’Earth Restoration Comedy Double T
1986 Bill Easley Wind Inventions Sunnyside
2001 Dave Ellis State of Mind Milestone
1989 Robin Eubanks Dedication Winter & Winter
1991 Sonny Fortune It Ain’t What It Was Konnex
1990 Tomas Franck Tomas Franck in New York Criss Cross
1984 Kenny Garrett Introducing Kenny Garrett Criss Cross
1988 Kenny Garrett Garrett 5 Bellaphon
1990* Kenny Garrett African Exchange Student Atlantic
1998 Kenny Garrett Simply Said Warner Bros.
2006 Kenny Garrett Beyond the Wall Nonesuch
1989 Benny Golson Live Dreyfus
1990 Benny Golson Quartet Lester Recording Catalog
1992 Benny Golson I Remember Miles Evidence
1996–2000 Benny Golson One Day, Forever Arkadia
1994 Gabrielle Goodman Until We Love Winter & Winter
1983 Johnny Griffin Call It Whachawana Galaxy
1997 Stefon Harris A Cloud of Red Dust Blue Note
1999* Donald Harrison Free to Be Impulse!
2004 Donald Harrison The Survivor Nagel Heyer
1991* Antonio Hart For the First Time Novus
1993* Antonio Hart For Cannonball and Woody Novus
2010* Louis Hayes Lou’s Idea American Showplace Music
1991–92 Vincent Herring Dawnbird Landmark
2001 Vincent Herring Simple Pleasure High Note
2007 Dave Holland Pass It On Dare2/Emarcy
1983 The Horizon Quintet Gumbo Amigo
1985 Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw Double Take Blue Note
1987 Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw The Eternal Triangle Blue Note
1985 Bobby Hutcherson Color Schemes Landmark
1993 Bobby Hutcherson Acoustic Masters II Atlantic
2003* Javier Colon Javier Capitol
2003 Sean Jones Eternal Journey Mack Avenue
1998* Joyce Astronauta: Canções De Elis Pau Brasil
2002 Geoff Keezer Sublime: Honoring the Music of Hank Jones Telarc
2000* Trudy Kerr Day Dream Jazzizit
1993* Ryan Kisor On the One Columbia
2001* David Klein My Marilyn Enja
2000 Harold Land Promised Land Audiophoric
1992 David Liebman Setting the Standard Red
1993 Joe Lovano Tenor Legacy Blue Note
1995 Joe Lovano Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard Blue Note
2000 Brian Lynch Tribute to the Trumpet Masters Sharp Nine
2012 Joe Magnarelli Live at Smalls Smallslive
2001 Rick Margitza Memento Palmetto
2000 René Marie How Can I Keep from Singing? Maxjazz
2001 René Marie Vertigo Maxjazz
1983 Branford Marsalis Scenes in the City Columbia
2002 Delfeayo Marsalis Minions Dominion Troubadour Jass
2004* Harvey Mason With All My Heart BMG
2005* Chris McNulty Dance Delicisio Elefant Dreams
1995 Charles McPherson Come Play with Me Arabesque
1997 Charles McPherson Manhattan Nocturne Arabesque
1996 Bill Mobley Live at Small’s Vol. 1 Space Time
1996 Bill Mobley Live at Small’s Vol. 2 Space Time
2007 Bill Mobley Moodscape Space Time
2006* Antoinette Montague Pretty Blues CAP
2010* Antoinette Montague Behind the Smile In The Groove
1995 James Moody Moody’s Party Telarc
1996 James Moody Young at Heart Warner Bros.
1988 Ralph Moore Rejuvenate! Criss Cross
1988 Frank Morgan Yardbird Suite Contemporary
1989 Frank Morgan Reflections Contemporary
1995* Ronald Muldrow Diaspora Enja
1998 Ronald Muldrow Freedom’s Serenade Double-Time
1989 Lewis Nash Rhythm Is My Business Evidence
2006 Lewis Nash Jazz Museum: Tribute to Great Artists All Art
1987–89 Steve Nelson Communications Criss Cross
1999 Steve Nelson New Beginnings TCB
2007 Steve Nelson Sound Effect High Note
1990 Sam Newsome Sam I Am Criss Cross
1991* New York Voices Hearts of Fire GRP
1995* Greg Osby Black Book Blue Note
1994 Nicholas Payton From This Moment Verve
1997 Nicholas Payton and Lew SoloffTom HarrellEddie Henderson Trumpet Legacy Milestone
2005 Pierrick Pedron Deep in a Dream Nocturne
2003 Jeremy Pelt Close to My Heart Maxjazz
1991 Billy Pierce One for Chuck Sunnyside
1988 Tony Reedus The Far Side Evidence
1988 Dianne Reeves The Nearness of You Blue Note
1997* Dianne Reeves That Day Blue Note
1999* Dianne Reeves Bridges Blue Note
2000 Dianne Reeves The Calling Blue Note
1987 Wallace Roney Verses Muse
1988 Wallace Roney Intuition Muse
1989 Wallace Roney The Standard Bearer Muse
2001 Jim Rotondi Destination Up! Sharp Nine
1990 David Sanborn Another Hand Elektra
1994 David Sanborn Pearls Elektra
2000 Randy Sandke Cliffhanger Nagel-Heyer
1977 Woody Shaw Woody Shaw Live Volume Three High Note
1980–81 Woody Shaw Field Recordings of a Jazz Master International Trumpet Guild
1981 Woody Shaw United Columbia
1982 Woody Shaw Lotus Flower Enja
1982 Woody Shaw Master of the Art Elektra/Musician
1982 Woody Shaw Night Music Elektra/Musician
1983 Woody Shaw The Time Is Right Red
2008 Alex Sipiagin Mirages Criss Cross
1990 Gary Smulyan The Lure of Beauty Criss Cross
1990 Jim Snidero Storm Rising Ken Music
1998 Lew Soloff With a Song in My Heart Milestone
1988 James Spaulding Gotstabe a Better Way Muse
2003 Terell Stafford New Beginnings Maxjazz
1991* Dave Stryker Guitar on Top Strikezone
1984 John Stubblefield Confessin’ Soul Note
1987 John Stubblefield Countin’ on the Blues Enja
1988 Superblue Superblue[53] Blue Note
1993 Steve Swallow Real Book XtraWatt
1991 John Swana John Swana and Friends Criss Cross
1997 Jubilant Sykes Jubilant CBS
1997 Gregory Tardy Serendipity Impulse!
1989 Toots Thielemans Footprints Emarcy
1991 Gary Thomas The Kold Kage Winter & Winter
2001 Jean Toussaint Blue Black Space Time
1997 Steve Turre Lotus Flower Verve
2000 Steve Turre TNT Telarc
2004 Steve Turre The Spirits up Above Half Note
2008* Steve Turre Rainbow People High Note
1999* Urban Jazz Network Urban Dreams Mankind
1996* Myron Walden Hypnosis NYC
1998 Bennie Wallace Someone to Watch over Me Enja
2001* Bennie Wallace Moodsville Groovenote
1983 Bobby Watson Jewel Evidence
1983 Bobby Watson Gumbo Evidence
1987 Bobby Watson The Year of the Rabbit Evidence
1983 Bobby Watson and Curtis Lundy Beatitudes New Note
1993 Ernie Watts Reaching Up JVC
1999* Ernie Watts Classic Moods JVC
2009* Chip White More Dedications Dark Colors
1995* Lenny White Present Tense Hip Bop
1985 Tony Williams Foreign Intrigue Blue Note
1986 Tony Williams Civilization Blue Note
1988 Tony Williams Angel Street Blue Note
1989 Tony Williams Native Heart Blue Note
1991 Tony Williams The Story of Neptune Blue Note
1992 Tony Williams Tokyo Live Blue Note
1996 Tony Williams Young at Heart Columbia
1988 Cassandra Wilson Blue Skies JMT
1991 Steve Wilson New York Summit Criss Cross
1998 Steve Wilson Generations Stretch
2005 Warren Wolf Incredible Jazz Vibes M&I
2009 Warren Wolf Black Wolf M&I


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