Raised in a musical family that includes his father William Miller (a church organist and choir director), the jazz pianist Wynton Kelly and rapper Foxy Brown, Miller has put his stamp on hundreds of jazz, R & B, fusion and rock recordings for more than 30 years. His credits as a sideman on albums cross the spectrum of musical styles: rock (Donald Fagen and Eric Clapton), Jazz (George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Sample, Wayne Shorter and Grover Washington, Jr.), pop (Roberta Flack, Paul Simon and Mariah Carey), R&B (Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan), hip hop (Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg), blues (Z.Z. Hill), new wave (Billy Idol), smooth jazz (Al Jarreau and Dave Koz) and opera (collaborations with tenor Kenn Hicks and soprano Kathleen Battle).
As a producer, writer and player, Miller was the last primary collaborator of Miles Davis, contributing the composition and album "Tutu" to the catalog of contemporary jazz music. His collaborative talents have been showcased in his work with Luther Vandross, contributing to more than half of the singer's albums as a producer, composer and/or player on a string of hits including "Power of Love/Love Power" for which Marcus won his first Grammy, 1991's R&B Song of the Year. He also left an unforgettable mark on David Sanborn's distinctive sound.
In 2008, Marcus co-led the all-star bass trio S.M.V. with Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten for an album (entitled "Thunder") followed by an extensive world tour. The following year, he put together a new band of young musicians for "Tutu Revisited" - a project that started as a special one night only event that culminated with the CD/DVD "Tutu Revisited" featuring Christian Scott. In 2011, he co-led the trio DMS, a funk-jazz collaboration with George Duke and David Sanborn. Last summer, Marcus conceived of and produced "Tribute to Miles," a 9-city tour of Europe with fellow Davis alumni Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, in which they presented their unique vision of every era of Miles' music. (Shorter celebrates his 80th birthday with Hancock as special guest at the Newport Jazz Festival also on Saturday, August 3.)
Miller's 2012 album, "Renaissance," is his eighth studio project since his 1983 debut, "Suddenly." The compilation includes special guests Gretchen Parlato, Ruben Blades and Dr. John and covers of hits by The Jackson Five, WAR, Ivan Lins and Janelle Monae.
The bassist, who started his career as a young sideman, now finds himself as an elder to many of today's younger artists. He tells ebony.com, "Well, I was always the youngest guy in the group, by far. All of a sudden, one day, man, I looked up, and I've got these guys who are like, in the same position that I was. I'll tell a story about somebody like Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie, who they only read about ... and they're all looking at me with really big eyes. And I realize, oh wow: I'm that guy, now. I'm the connection for these guys to the history of this music."
The Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management features Natalie Cole and the Bill Charlap Trio with special guest Freddy Cole, at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino (194 Bellevue Avenue) on Friday, August 2, at 8:00 pm. The festival continues on Saturday, August 3, on three unique stages from 10:30 am - 7:00 pm at Fort Adams State Park (90 Fort Adams Drive). The roster includes Wayne Shorter's 80th Birthday Celebration: Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring special guest Herbie Hancock and Danilo Perez, John Patitucci & Brian Blade; Marcus Miller; Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society; Michel Camilo Sextet; Terence Blanchard Quintet; Robert Glasper Experiment; Gregory Porter; Edmar Castañeda; Ray Anderson Pocket Brass Band; Amir El Saffar Two Rivers; Bill Charlap Trio with guests Bob Wilber and Anat Cohen; Mary Halvorson Quintet; Rez Abbasi Trio, among others.
On Sunday, August 4, the music continues at Fort Adams at 10:30 am with Chick Corea & The Vigil with Christian McBride, Tim Garland, Marcus Gilmore and Charles Altura; Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra; Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band featuring Jaleel Shaw, Martin Bejerano and David Wong; Dizzy Gillespie™ Big Band under the direction of Paquito D'Rivera; Hiromi: The Trio Project with Anthony Jackson and Steve Smith; Joshua Redman Quartet; Jim Hall Quartet featuring Julian Lage; Jon Batiste & Stay Human; Dee Alexander: Songs That My Mother Loved; The Dirty Dozen Brass Band; Lew Tabackin Quartet with Randy Brecker, Peter Washington and Lewis Nash; Donny McCaslin Group; Steve Coleman Projects: Five Elements, Talea Ensemble and Duo with Tyshawn Sorey; David Gilmore & Numerology featuring Claudia Acuña, Miguel Zenón, Luis Perdomo, Christian McBride, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Mino Cinelu; and others.