Mulgrew Miller, 1955-2013

This time, sadly, it’s true; Mulgrew Miller succumbed early this morning to the effects of the stroke heMulgrew Miller at Vienne suffered last Friday. Nate Chinen’s obituary in today’s New York Times offers an appreciation of the pianist and a summary of his career.

Miller’s solo performance of Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” at last summer’s Jazz a Vienne festival in France gives an indication why he was respected as one of the most expressive musicians of his generation.

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  1. Rich Juliano says

    Just since 2006, jazz piano devotees have lost Dave Brubeck, Ray Bryant, John Bunch, Clare Fischer, George Gruntz, John Hicks, Eddie Higgins, Andrew Hill, Hank Jones, Ronnie Mathews, Dave McKenna, Jay McShann, Walter Norris, Oscar Peterson, Hilton Ruiz, George Shearing, Billy Taylor, Gerald Wiggins, Joe Zawinul, and now Mulgrew Miller. (No disrespect intended to anyone else whom I have omitted. Other readers may have additional names.) Many of these master musicians were active right up until their respective passings, and of course the list includes some of the most influential stylists ever to play the instrument. We will continue to remember them through the countless recorded documents and personal memories they left us. The further message is that we need to support and treasure the jazz pianists who are still with us, regardless of style or generation. Like those on the list above, they are not replaceable.

    Many will speak of Mulgrew Miller’s influence in coming days, and all accolades will be well-deserved. On a few occasions I saw him play on concert bills with other pianists, and the respect they had for him was obvious. We will all continue to enjoy his recordings – as leader and sideman – and educational documents for years to come. I recall that James Williams (another lost giant) used to call Mulgrew “The State of the Art of Jazz Piano.” RIP and condolences to all.

  2. Bill Benjamin says

    The wonderful Chicago pianist, Jodie Christian, passed away in February 2012. He wasn’t known well outside of the city, but for decades he worked with the best horn players who came through Chicago: Dexter Gordon, James Moody, Clark Terry, Ira Sullivan, Don Byas and far too many more to mention. He was also one of the founding members of the AACM.

    • Rich Juliano says

      I heartily agree on Jodie Christian – greatness knows no geographic boundaries. Gordon Beck as well, unfortunately.

  3. Red Sullivan says

    Gordon Beck’s name, sadly, is another on that list of “giants”.
    Mr. Miller, though, was probably the greatest single musician of his generation – and of succeeding generations, too.

  4. Peter Levin says

    Mulgrew Miller, in conversation with Bret Primack: “Playing this music compels us to be in the moment. We’re not always there, most of us, but when we’re on the bandstand and that something happens, when we know we have performed in a way that we don’t usually perform . . . . That happens on occasion, where we realize we weren’t even there, it wasn’t really about us, we were being a channel for creativity to express itself, and that’s such a profound experience that when it happens we’re driven to try to find that experience again. I dare say that that’s what keeps us coming to the bandstand every night.”

    As a leader and a band member, Miller was part of as many of those experiences as anyone I’ve heard.

  5. Ken Dryden says

    One of the delights of attending IAJE was finally getting to see Mulgrew Miller perform. Unfortunately, it was also my last opportunity. He will be missed.