Big Miller

"Big" (Clarence Horatio) Miller. Singer, trombonist, actor, (born 18 December 1922 in Sioux City, Iowa; died 9 June 1992 in Edmonton, AB).

Big Miller
Statue erected in Edmonton. Photo taken August 5, 2012.

'Big' (Clarence Horatio) Miller. Singer, trombonist, actor, b Sioux City, Iowa, 18 Dec 1922, naturalized Canadian 1973, d Edmonton 9 Jun 1992, honorary D LITT (Athabasca) 1985. He began his career as a teenaged blues shouter in Kansas City and sang 1949-54 with the pianist Jay McShann and in 1955 with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He made his Canadian debut 18 May 1962 in Toronto with Don (D.T.) Thompson at the Club Kingsway. After living during the mid-1960s in Australia and then Hawaii, he toured briefly in the USA and Canada with Jon Hendricks' revue The Evolution of the Blues, which left him stranded in Vancouver in 1967.

Instead of returning to the USA, Miller began to perform on an itinerant basis in western Canada, settling in 1970 in Edmonton. There he emerged in the mid-1970s as a popular figure on the local jazz scene and, under the aegis of the provincial government, performed in many small Alberta communities and on a promotional tour in Japan. In 1978 Miller sang with the Tommy Banks Big Band at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland; a recording of the performance (Jazz Canada Montreux 1978, RCI 485) received the Juno Award in 1979 for best jazz album.

An avuncular figure who sang in a relaxed, baritone holler with gospel and jazz inflections, Miller appeared regularly through the 1980s at Jazz City in blues and children's concerts; the former saw him reunited with Jay McShann in 1983 and 1989. He taught at the Banff CA Jazz Workshop and Grant MacEwan College, Edmonton, and performed 1987-9 at the Edmonton Folk Festival and in 1990 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Elsewhere in Canada, Miller toured with Nimmons 'N' Nine Plus Six and appeared in clubs, concerts, and at festivals under his own name. Internationally, he performed in Europe in 1985 and in England in 1990, enjoying considerable renown as an 'authentic' Kansas City bluesman.

Miller was profiled by the NFB in Big & the Blues (1980) and appeared in several Canadian films, including the feature Big Meat Eater (1982).

Discography

Did You Ever Hear the Blues? With US orch. 1959. United Artists UAS-6047

Revelations & Blues. With US ensemble. 1960. Col CS-8411

'Big' Miller. With quartet (Perry alto and tenor saxophone, Banks piano, Sereda double-bass, Doran drums) or orch. 1978. RCI 474

Live from Calgary. Friedenberg tenor and soprano saxophone, Erlendson electric piano and piano, Feschuk piano and organ, Koller double-bass and bass guitar, Searcy drums. 1982. Black Bear BBR-1006

Live at Athabasca College. Towell tenor saxophone, Patterson guitar, Chornowol piano, Minchau (electric) bass guitar, Logan drums. 1989. Stony Plain SPCD-1151

with others

Bob Brookmeyer's Kansas City Seven Kansas City Revisited. 1958. United Artists UAS-5008

Rex Stewart and the Henderson All Stars Henderson Homecoming. 1958. United Artists UAS-5009

Jon Hendricks Evolution of the Blues. 1960. Col CS-8383


Further Reading

  • Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who (New Rochelle, NY 1979)

    Purdy, Kris. 'Big: from Sioux City to L.A. to Edmonton, Big Miller's the name and jazz is the game,' Edmonton, Jan 1981

    Christy, Jim. 'Big: Clarence Horatius [sic] Miller of Edmonton may just be the best jazz singer in the world,' Quest, Mar 1982