Mulgrew Miller was an American jazz pianist, composer, and educator.
40 Facts About Mulgrew Miller
Three-year stints with trumpeter Woody Shaw and with drummer Art Blakey's high-profile Jazz Messengers followed, by the end of which Miller had formed his own bands and begun recording under his own name.
Mulgrew Miller was then part of drummer Tony Williams' quintet from its foundation, while continuing to play and record with numerous other leaders, mostly in small groups.
Mulgrew Miller was director of jazz studies at William Paterson University from 2005, and continued to play and tour internationally with other high-profile figures in the music until his death from a stroke at the age of 57.
Mulgrew Miller was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, to parents who had been raised on plantations.
Mulgrew Miller's family was not musical, but they had a piano, which no one in the house could play.
Mulgrew Miller played tunes on the piano from the age of six, playing by ear.
Mulgrew Miller had piano lessons from the age of eight.
Mulgrew Miller's family was Methodist, but he played in churches of multiple denominations.
Mulgrew Miller later mentioned Art Tatum and Erroll Garner as piano influences during his teenage years.
Mulgrew Miller reported years later that he always found that playing fast was easy, so playing slowly and with more control were what he had to work hardest on.
Mulgrew Miller 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 players such as Wynton Kelly, Bud Powell, and McCoy Tyner.
Still at Memphis State, Mulgrew Miller attended a jazz workshop, where one of the tutors was his future bandleader, Woody Shaw, who stated that they would meet again in two years.
That winter, Mulgrew Miller was invited to Los Angeles by a school friend and decided to go, to escape the cold weather.
Mulgrew Miller stayed on the West Coast for a year, playing locally in clubs and a church.
Towards the end of 1976, Mulgrew Miller was invited to substitute for the regular pianist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Mulgrew Miller had performed the same role for one weekend around a year earlier, and the new work was to be for only three weeks, but he ultimately toured with the orchestra for almost three years.
Mulgrew Miller left in January 1980, after being recruited by vocalist Betty Carter, with whom he toured for eight months that year.
Mulgrew Miller was then part of Shaw's band from 1981 to 1983, thereby, in Miller's view, fulfilling his destiny from their earlier meetings.
Mulgrew Miller was recommended for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers by Blakey members Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison, and he joined the drummer's band in 1983.
At times during concert performances he was allotted a solo piano spot, which Mulgrew Miller used to play medleys.
Jon Pareles' review of a solo concert in 1986 observed that Mulgrew Miller's playing showed the influence of Powell on some numbers and Kelly on others, but that, overall, he was developing "his own, authoritative style".
Mulgrew Miller remained active between tours with Williams' band, in part by touring with his own groups.
Mulgrew Miller played on Williams bandmate Wallace Roney's first three recordings, and many other albums recorded by other leaders in the late 1980s.
In 1990, Mulgrew Miller traveled to the Soviet Union to appear as pianist in Benny Golson's band at the first Moscow International Jazz Festival.
In 1992, Mulgrew Miller toured domestically and internationally with the New York Jazz Giants, a septet containing Jon Faddis, Tom Harrell, Lew Tabackin, Bobby Watson, Ray Drummond, and Carl Allen.
Mulgrew Miller continued to accompany vocalists, including on recordings with Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson.
For several years after he had turned 40, Mulgrew Miller concentrated on composing and playing his own music.
Mulgrew Miller reduced his recording and club appearances, as well as one-day associations.
In 1997, Mulgrew Miller toured in Japan with 100 Golden Fingers, a troupe of 10 pianists.
In 2002 Mulgrew Miller joined bassist Ron Carter's Golden Striker Trio, with guitarist Russell Malone.
In 2003, Miller was commissioned to write a score for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; after writing The Clearing in the Woods and having it choreographed by Ronald K Brown, Miller and his band played the piece for performances by the company.
Around this time, Mulgrew Miller had two regular bands of his own: a piano trio, and a quintet featuring saxophone and vibraphone.
Mulgrew Miller became heavily involved in music education: Miller was the Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University from 2005, and was the Artist in Residence at Lafayette College in 2008, which was two years after it had awarded him an honorary doctorate in Performing Arts.
Also in 2010, Mulgrew Miller joined guitarist John Scofield's new band.
Mulgrew Miller made more than 15 albums under his own name during his career, and appeared on more than 400 for other leaders.
Mulgrew Miller's last working trio consisted of Ivan Taylor on bass and Green on drums.
Mulgrew Miller was survived by his wife, son, daughter, and grandson.
Mulgrew Miller was quiet and gentle, and was "a modest man, with a self-deprecating sense of humour".
Mulgrew Miller described his own attitude towards music in a 2005 interview:.