Accompanists tend not to get the credit they deserve, especially in the field of pop music. Unless you’re in the business or on its fringes, for instance, you probably won’t recognize the name of Bill Miller, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91. As of this morning, the New York Times hadn’t yet published an obituary of Miller. Nevertheless, you’ve probably heard him play piano, because he spent nearly a half-century, from 1951 to 1995, backing up Frank Sinatra. It was a difficult task that he discharged with supreme tact and taste, steering clear of the spotlight, finding fulfillment in making his boss sound good.
The best evidence of Miller’s gifts is the 1958 performance of “One for My Baby” that closes Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely. Most of it is a duet for voice and piano, with Nelson Riddle adding discreet touches of orchestral support here and there. It is Sinatra’s greatest recording–and it wouldn’t have been the same without Bill Miller. Listen to it as you bid him farewell.