Clarence "Big" Miller


Image: Big Miller (courtesy Edmonton Jazz Society Photo Archives)


One of the great jazz musicians of his time, "Big" Miller was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1922. As a teenager, Miller studied trombone in high school and began to develop his unique singing voice as a "Kansas City blues shouter." He sang with the legendary Duke Ellington and made his debut in Canada at Toronto in 1962. Although a popular performer throughout the United States, Miller became increasingly discouraged by racial tensions there. He began touring other countries and lived for a while in Australia and then Hawaii.

Miller found himself stranded in Vancouver when one of his tours ran out of money. He travelled around Western Canada and finally settled in Edmonton in 1970, where he became a fixture in the city's and province's music scene. Loving his new home, Miller became a Canadian citizen in 1973.

A popular figure whose deep voice mixed gospel and jazz, Miller appeared at jazz festivals, in children's concerts, with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and with various jazz bands across Canada. He performed in many small Alberta communities and was sent by the Alberta government on a promotional tour to Japan. In 1978 he sang with the Tommy Banks Big Band at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. A recording of the performance received a Juno Award in 1979 for best jazz album.

The National Film Board produced a documentary on Miller and he acted in several Canadian films. In 1985, he was honoured with an honorary doctorate in the humanities from Athabasca University. Still performing at the age of 69, "Big" Miller died of a heart attack in June 1992.

Big Miller
A biography of jazz musician Clarence Horatius "Big" Miller from Billboard.com.

Big Miller: Live At Athabasca University
Listen to audio clips from recordings featuring Canadian jazz musician Big Miller. From the iTunes website.

Big Miller and the Tommy Banks Big Band and Quartet
Listen to audio clips from this recording featuring Big Miller and Tommy Banks. From allmusic.com.

Clarence "Big" Miller
Scroll down the page for a brief bio of "Big" Miller. From the website Little Chicago's Jazz Hall of Fame.

Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy
Scroll down the page to "1951-1960" to view the name of Clarence "Big" Miller on the "List of Honour" at the Carnegie Hall website Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy.

Clarence Miller; Singer With Jazz Groups
A brief obituary for jazz performer Clarence "Big" Miller. From the Los Angeles Times.

Big Miller
A bio of jazz and blues singer Big Miller. From the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

Big Miller
Profile of Clarence Horatius “Big” Miller. From the Albertans: Who do they think they are?

Big and the Blues
Images and other media featuring Big Miller from the film Big and the Blues. From the National Film Board.