“Mark, you have grown into being a very important artist. I am honored to be on the stage with you!”
– Jennifer Leitham
Mark’s Other CDs
Dreamer With a Penny
My debut release and features a first call list of West Coast talent.
Page Cavanaugh, Joyce Collins, Jane Getz – piano
Recorded with my long time pal, the revered LA based singer/pianist Betty Bryant – we had a ball making this record!
Robert Kyle – reeds
Tomas Gargano – bass
CRAZY MOON is the newest project from jazz vocalist Mark Christian Miller. A music business veteran, Miller has been performing regularly in Southern California for over 20 years and has recorded with L.A. legends. Now, with the release of CRAZY MOON, Miller steps out front as a leader, accompanied by some of the most in-demand musicians on the West Coast.
Miller has a rich voice full of nuance and shadings. Combined with his effortless talent for melodic invention, he casts a new light on vintage under-the-radar standards with updated, modern arrangements by rising jazz stars, Josh Nelson and Jamieson Trotter.
Leaders in their own right, Nelson and Trotter are among the most innovative younger pianists, accompanists, composers and arrangers on the scene. From the first bars of the introduction to the opening track, “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” you can hear how Trotter has updated this 1930s swinger by wrapping it in an arrangement reminiscent of a movie dream sequence. Combined with Nelson’s high energy piano playing and Miller’s solid sense of swing and crystal clear diction, it’s as fresh and new today as if it were composed only recently. Or listen to Nelson’s arrangement of “Strange.” Popular in the 1950’s with recordings by Nat King Cole, Woody Herman and Chico Hamilton, Nelson has given it a modern groove accentuated by bass clarinet and percussion that highlights Miller’s warm timbre and darker hues.
Miller is an effortless storyteller. He takes liberties with time, phrasing, and melody, but he never needs extraneous vocal ornamentation to communicate a lyric. Adept at a wide range of emotional tones, Miller can swing like a 1930’s big band singer in tunes like “Cheek to Cheek,” and can also convey a deep sense of longing in ballads like “April Fooled Me” and “Second Chance.”
The core trio includes pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Dave Robaire, and drummer Sammy Miller, all younger players with a growing fan base. The rest of the band are seasoned veterans, including Larry Koonse on guitar, Ron Stout on trumpet, Bob Sheppard on bass clarinet, and Grammy winner Billy Hulting on percussion.
Miller is a native of Iowa. He grew up on a 350-acre farm where his family raised corn, soybeans and cattle. His first musical training was from his mother, who taught piano. More interested in music than in farming, Miller joined the school band where he played the baritone horn. After graduation, he moved to San Francisco and joined the famed Lamplighters, a light opera company specializing in Gilbert and Sullivan, where he had featured roles. He moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to study at the highly competitive Los Angeles Civic Light Opera’s Musical Theater Workshop. Miller soon began working in many small theater productions around Los Angeles. He did several seasons of summer stock and understudied the lead in a tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. In the early 90’s, he won a full scholarship from Herb Alpert’s brother, David, and attended Los Angeles City College as a full time music major. At that time he came to the attention of the late Teri Merrill-Aarons, founder of the Los Angeles Jazz Society, who started booking him into top local venues paired with the finest pianists in town. He quickly gained a following and stellar reviews. During this time he studied jazz piano with two highly respected artists, Joyce Collins and Jane Getz.
Also during this time, he met Page Cavanaugh, the veteran pianist-singer whose trio was popular in the late 1940s and ’50s and who became one of music’s most enduring jazz artists. The two became good friends and their friendship was a source of deep musical inspiration for Miller. “Page turned me on to many obscure songs that I never would have heard otherwise. But it was really his approach to tunes that taught me so much. He took care of the music.” The two eventually recorded several tracks for Miller’s debut CD Dreamer With a Penny that also featured Dave Tull on drums and Phil Mallory on bass. Cavanaugh died in 2008, and Miller was honored by being asked to perform at his memorial, where he shared the stage with Michael Feinstein.
Miller began working behind the scenes as a music promoter and booked two successful jazz series in upscale Los Angeles restaurants. He joined Corniche Entertainment as an artist manager and booker, and has presented entertainment for events in the most prestigious festivals, resorts and hotels in Southern California, launched a highly successful music series, and served as Associate Producer for four music festivals at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater. While this has given him a very complete approach to the music business, he found himself performing less — something was missing from his life. On a trip to New York City, Miller ran into noted writer James Gavin, who encouraged him to get back into singing, and made an introduction to Jim Caruso. Miller performed that very night at Caruso’s weekly “Cast Party” at Birdland. It was a seminal moment in his life. He felt completely reinvigorated, and when he returned to Los Angeles he approached the gifted pianist Josh Nelson and began working on this project.
With the release of CRAZY MOON, Mark Christian Miller takes the lessons he’s learned and truly takes care of the music, adding his own distinctive voice and modern take to an out-of-the-box song selection.
Copyright 2015 Mouthpiece Music