Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mark J. Miller, A Life of Art

In record store life, sometimes you never get to meet your favorite collectors.

That goes for Mark J. Miller, of Toronto, Ohio, who passed away on Christmas Day 2016 at the young age of 54. Mark was a multi-instrumentalist and jazz guitarist, and had studied at Ohio University. A journalist for the Steubenville Herald Star, he covered his small town of Toronto and various other topics, including music. He was awarded the AP Award for Small Market Journalism for his music column. He was also employed as a guitar teacher with DC Music in East Liverpool, OH.

Mark was a volunteer with the Team MOJO Foundation, giving free guitar lessons to underprivileged youth; their motto was "Helping Kids Shine." Since his passing, the organization has renamed the "Free Music Lessons Project" to "Mark Miller Music Project."

He was the current Board President of the Helping Hands Food Pantry in Toronto, which he helped establish.

But first and foremost, Mark was a musician, recording his own music as well as playing in many local bands over the years which included: The Hostages, Gemini, Fortune, Voices, Grain, The Inside Out Band, Soulfinger, Acoustic Lizard and Kaiju 7, to name a few.

Thankfully, Mark left some videos on YouTube for us to enjoy.
Here is a link to Mark and a friend dueting Summertime.
Here is a link to Mark brilliantly noodling a solo to the chord structure of Autumn Leaves over a recorded acoustic bass track with a Roland GR-55 to a Digitech loop station.
Here's Mark Miller and Rick Call doing a version of Shadow of Your Smile.
And one last one, Yesterday. Just beautiful.

As friend Paul Giannamore recounts, "Mark was a natural jazzman who could sit and play a perfect tune from his head, just while carrying on a conversation, almost absent-mindedly, just crafting as he talked about something that had nothing to do at all with music." Click here to read Paul's personal full tribute.

Part of Mark's jazz collection
As you might imagine, Mark's record collection is off the charts. He clearly loved all music, jazz being his primary Juliet. Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Brother Jack McDuff, Jackie McLean, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith, Charles Mingus, Kenny Burrell, Duke Ellington, Eric Kloss, Art Farmer, Ella Fitzgerald, Ornette Coleman, Jim Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Chet Baker, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Grant Green, Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessell, Count Basie. You name it, he had it, and his collection went deep. He collected to listen, enjoy, and most importantly learn.

His non-jazz collection is what we would refer to as all-killer-no-filler. He embraced Velvet Underground, Elvis Costello (to whom his sister Michele fondly remembers Mark introducing her), Richard & Linda Thompson, Television, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Wilco, Frank Zappa, Nick Drake, Harry Nilsson, Frank Sinatra and David Bowie.

He was a loyal customer to Paul's CDs, Sound Cat, and Jerry's of Pittsburgh. There's an enthusiastic video he and his friend Joe Ammon created of a shopping trip to Jerry's

Mark's CD collection
Spoonful Records will be hosting Mark's CD collection on Sat, Mar 4th (11am to 7:30pm) and Sun, Mar 5th (noon to 6pm), for two days ONLY. Thousands of rare, hard to find, out of print & limited edition CDs will be $3. Box sets will be $3 per disc. The CDs are mostly jazz, as well as rock and world music. Partial proceeds will benefit cancer research and Team MOJO Foundation.  Click here for the Facebook event.

We are honored & humbled to be entrusted with Mark's vinyl collection and the awesome responsibility of finding new homes for his records. We hope, in his enthusiastic, swinging jazzbo spirit, you will add these gems to your collection, listen to them, share them with your friends & children, and grow your knowledge of jazz, just as he had done.

We are still learning about Mark, his friends, his loves, and his life of art. If you have anything to share, please feel free to comment below.