James "Bubber" Miley (April 3, 1903 - May 20, 1932) was an early jazz trumpeter, specializing in the use of the plunger mute.
Miley was born in Aiken, South Carolina. By the time he was twenty, he was working in clubs in New York City. It was in New York that he met Duke Ellington. His work in the early Duke Ellington Orchestra has secured his place in jazz history, particularly his solos in "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "East Saint Louis Toodle-oo". He and fellow band member, trombonist Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton, created the "Wah-wah" sound that characterized Ellington's early work. Many consider Miley's musical contributions to be integral to Ellington's early success.
Due to concerns of unreliability, Miley left the band in 1929, but his influence on the Ellington band lasted far longer. His replacement in the band, Cootie Williams, was able to adopt Miley's style when needed.
After leaving Ellington, Miley recorded with a wide variety of recording groups led by King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Hoagy Carmichael, and society dance band Leo Reisman. Miley also performed with Reisman in public, albeit either in the uniform of a doorman, or hidden from view by a screen.
Miley was an alcoholic and died of tuberculosis in New York City. Ironically, Miley lived just a little longer than his contemporary, Bix Beiderbecke, whose life was also tragically cut short from alcohol abuse.