fine trumpeter Bobby Shew, now one of the horn’s elder statesmen, gave Dan
Miller an unforgettable present on his protégé’s 30th birthday.
Miller recalls 22 years later, those sage words of wisdom went like this: “You
don’t want to be a sideman all your life. You’re going to turn 50 years old and
the phone is going to stop ringing. It is not because you can’t play well, it’s
because there are two younger generations of players who are working with all
the big acts. You have to become your own boss. You have to book your own gigs.
You have to teach. You have to do clinics. You have to travel. You have to lead
your own bands. You have to diversify how you work in music.”
has done all that with an energy that seems tireless. While he keeps busy as a
player, bandleader and trumpet ambassador, the jazz education side of his
career seems most satisfying. More so lately in the pandemic environment and being
sidelined for the past two months after surgery on a broken foot.
grew up in Chicago, immersing himself in the Windy City’s jazz scene as a
listener and student player. Then he headed to the University of North Texas in
1987, where he found even more mentors, including brass instructor Don Jacoby,
before going on the road with the Woody Herman Orchestra two years later.
1991, Miller moved to New York City with his brother, trombonist David Miller. Whenever
Dan was in town, he made sure to go to pianist Barry Harris’ Tuesday night jazz
workshops to soak up more ideas on the art of improvisation. Harris, at 91,
still runs his workshops.