Mike Miller (guitarist)

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For information on the guitarist of Godhead who has the same name, see Godhead (band).

Mike Miller (born 1953 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota[1]) is a Los Angeles-based guitarist known for playing various styles of music including jazz fusion, rock, pop and more, and has played with Chick Corea, Bette Midler, Yellowjackets,[1] Gino Vannelli, Vital Information, Karizma (Jazz band), Chad Wackerman, Vinnie Colaiuta, Quincy Jones, Brand X, and Burton Cummings. He also performed in film scores for Mark Mothersbaugh and in the Frank Zappa alumni band Banned from Utopia.

Miller has released two albums under his own name and two other projects; with The Outsidemen, Band Overboard (1996), and with Bruce Arnold, Two Guys from South Dakota (2005).


Mike Miller was born into a musical family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on May 8, 1953. He was the third of four bass-playing brothers, performing with his father’s jazz combo at twelve. About the same time he began honing his precocious guitar chops in a series of garage bands, and at fifteen was accepted into the Sioux Falls Symphony as a string bassist.[2][3]

Miller moved to Colorado in 1972. There he met and played extensively with guitarists Robben Ford, Bill Frisell, and Larry Coryell, and performed in a variety of musical situations, which included opening for the Rolling Stones with ATCO recording artists Sixty Million Buffalo, and playing bass with legendary guitarist Tommy Bolin. While in Colorado, he also hooked up with the Fowler Brothers (trumpeter, flugelhornist, keyboardist Walt, trombonist Bruce and bassist Tom Fowler of Frank Zappa fame, and saxophonist Steve, and bassist Ed Fowler) and came to California to record the album Fly On with the group Air Pocket, produced by jazz great Oliver Nelson.[4][5] Miller made the move permanent, relocating to Los Angeles in 1975.[3][6]

In California he began collaborating with Shawn Phillips, Bennie Maupin (fresh from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters) Max Bennett, Airto Moreira, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report), Bobby Caldwell, Brand X, and many others. As Miller grew roots in Los Angeles, he continued developing original music with his contemporaries (such as Billy Childs, Mitchel Forman, Ed Mann, Abraham Laboriel, Tom Brechtlein, and David Garfield) at clubs through Los Angeles and Southern California.[3]

In 1981 Miller began eleven years of working with progressive pop vocalist Gino Vannelli, touring and recording five albums. In 1983 he contributed the Grammy-nominated composition “Elamar” to the Yellowjackets album Mirage a Trois, and in 1986, started a trio with Ralph Humphrey and Jim Lacefield called The Outsidemen, releasing a live disk titled Band Overboard (1996)[3][7][8]

In 1993 Mike joined jazz keyboard icon Chick Corea in the Elektric Band II to record the Grammy-nominated album Paint the World (1993). On this recording, Corea said: I wanted to go for a much less thought-out, produced, composed music. I wanted less written notes, varying tempos of songs… there was no effort in making it, and it’s exactly what we played.” The Elektric Band II toured the world for a year and a half, giving Miller an opportunity to play with Corea in an extended situation.[8][9][10][11][12]

In the middle to late 1990s Miller discovered new stimulation working in orchestral settings. He performed the music of Frank Zappa as a member of Banned from Utopia (with the Seattle Symphony, the Portland Symphony, and the Israeli Philharmonic), recorded Joseph Curiale’s guitar concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and was a soloist alongside Peter Erskine with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, in the U.S. debut of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Blood on the Floor (1997).[3][13][14][15][16]

At the end of the 1990s, he was involved in the scoring Jessica Yu’s documentaries Breathing Lessons (Oscar winner) and The Living Museum. Miller performed with Bette Midler in her highly successful Divine Miss Millennium (1999–2000), and Kiss My Brass (2003–2004) world tours, as well as recording Bette (2000) with producer Don Was. He also worked with film composer Mark Mothersbaugh on Universal Pictures The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), and numerous other film and TV projects.[3]

In 2001, Miller released his first solo recording Save the Moon, on Marsis Jazz. For help, he enlisted drummers Tom Brechtlein, Peter Erskine, and Ralph Humphrey, bassist Jimmy Johnson, keyboardists Mitchel Forman and David Witham, and trombonist Bruce Fowler. In the liner notes, Miller states: I am a guitar player, but I didn’t want to do one of those “fast” guitar slinger records… I always wanted to do a record that reflected my interests… from being a John Lennon admirer to a devout Bitches Brew fan… I’m very happy with this album. I think it reflects a lot about what made me want to play music in the first place. 2008 saw the release of World Goes Round by the Mike Miller Quartet featuring Walt Fowler, Albert Wing, Chad Wackerman, and Jimmy Johnson, which includes original compositions as well as creative takes on George Gershwin and Pérez Prado. “If you love guitar, this is one to get! Producer Jeff Severson commented Miller in a review of “World Goes Round:” “There are world class players and there are great composers, he is one of the rare breed who is both.”[17]

Miller appeared with Bette Midler in The Showgirl Must Go On in Las Vegas for 200 shows 2008-2010 at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.[8][18] He toured and made a number of television appearances including The Tonight Show and Ellen as a member of the Queen Latifah Big Band to support her 2007 jazz album Trav’lin’ Light.[2]

He has been touring guitarist for the Boz Scaggs since 2014.

He is also active writing, recording (recently featured on disks by Marilyn Scott, Steve Weingart and Allen Vizzutti), and playing original music, and working in collaboration with many of the most creative musicians in Los Angeles, often as a regular at the Baked Potato in Hollywood in his own bands and with musicians such as Scott Kinsey, Ottmar Ruiz, Mitch Forman, and Brandon Fields. Miller is currently developing material for a trio disk with drummer Tom Brecthlein and bassist Jerry Watts.[8][19]


In the early 2000s, Miller played various custom-made instruments, some with Seymour Duncan pickups, as well as a Martin D-28. He used effects made by Danish company Emma and by Line 6.[8][20]

He currently plays a Rahbek COS-T guitar and uses THD Flexi-50 amplifiers, among others.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b Ayers, Don (2007-12-17). "An Interview with Guitarist Mike Miller". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  2. ^ a b Miller, Mike “MySpace Bio”. [1] retrieved 08-01-2011
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ayers, Don (12-17-2007) "An Interview with Guitarist Mike Miller" All About Jazz "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2010-10-07.  retrieved 10-07-2010
  4. ^ The Be-Bop Bass Notes: Tom Fowler Interview Duween, T’Mershi 04/24/1996 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2011-09-03.  retrieved 08-11/2011
  5. ^ Fowler Brothers Air Pocket [2] retrieved 08-11/2011
  6. ^ Miller, Mike “MySpace Bio.” [3] retrieved 08-01-2011
  7. ^ The Los Angeles Times San Diego County Edition (04-13-1991) “Mixing Pop and the Soul Music: Gino Vannelli hasn’t always found it easy to reconcile his top 40 success with his classical bent, but he’s getting there”
  8. ^ a b c d e Guitar Player Magazine (09-2002) Fox, Darrin “Mike Miller: Elements of Style”
  9. ^ Downbeat Magazine (12-1993) Stewart, Zan “Brave New Band: Chick Corea”
  10. ^ The Los Angeles Times (11-27-1993) Stewart, Zan “Spontaneous Connection Plugged Into Each Other, Chick Corea and the Electric Band Get Charged on Improvisation”
  11. ^ The Los Angeles Times (11-26-1995) Stewart, Zan “Chick Corea on the Electric Road Again”
  12. ^ The Los Angeles Times (11-06-1993) Stewart, Zan “Chick Corea Band Plugs Back In: Review of “Paint The World” Chick Corea Elektric Band II”
  13. ^ The Los Angeles Times (06-05-2000) Swed, Mark “Ojai’s Two-Nation Summit; The singularities of music from Britain and France are pondered in a small town that fosters idylls”
  14. ^ The Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Edition (06-09-2000) Woodard, Josef “Grand Finale; Ojai Festival ends season with enough to keep us attuned, aware”
  15. ^ LA Weekly (01-30-1998) Rense, Rip “Sealed Tuna Bolero: Banned from Utopia”
  16. ^ The Portland Oregonian (10-19-1995) “Former Zappa Bandmates Team up to Pay Homage to the Master”
  17. ^ Severson, Jeff Review: World Goes Round [4] downloaded 08-01-2011
  18. ^ The Showgirl Must Go On
  19. ^ Miller, Mike “MySpaceBio.” [5] Downloaded 08-01-2011
  20. ^ Ayers, Don (12-17-2007) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2010-10-07. " "An Interview with Guitarist Mike Miller". All About Jazz "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2010-10-07.  retrieved 10-07-2010
  21. ^ Rahbek Guitars [www.rahbekguitars.com/] retrieved 08-01-2011
  22. ^ THD Electronics Featured Artists [6] retrieved 08-01-2011

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