Jazz Bass Lesson - Milt Hinton

Widely regarded as “the dean of jazz bass players,” Hinton was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1910 and moved to Chicago with his family at the age of 11. He began studying the violin when he was 13, and played the bass horn, tuba, cello and bass violin while attending Wendell Phillips High School.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hinton worked as a freelance musician in Chicago, performing with many of the era’s jazz greats, including Erskine Tate and Art Tatum. His earliest recordings date back to this time and his first steady job was with a band led by Tiny Parham. In 1936, Hinton joined Cab Calloway’s renowned band and played with them for the next 15 years, with musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Cheatham and Ben Webster. Hilton’s numerous recordings from this time have become jazz classics.

After leaving the Cab Calloway Orchestra in the early 1950s, Hinton began working as a studio freelancer in New York City. With the help of his friend actor/entertainer Jackie Gleason, he became one of the first black musicians to work in the predominantly white studio recording industry. For two decades he played on thousands of jazz and popular records, on hundreds of jingles and film soundtracks, and on dozens of radio and television programs, touring extensively with Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey and Bing Crosby. Hinton has accompanied countless jazz and popular artists, including Count Basie, Charles Mingus, Bette Midler, Duke Ellington, Barry Manilow, John Coltrane and Paul McCartney.

In addition to his career in music, Hinton gained recognition as a photographer. He began snapping pictures of his friends in the 1930s and over the next six decades, his collection grew to include more than 60,000 images. His extraordinary photographs have been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world. In 1988, Bass Line: The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton, was published by Temple University Press and was selected Book of the Year by Jazz Times. A second book, OverTime: The Jazz Photographs of Milt Hinton, was published by Pomegranate Art Books in 1991. For Hinton’s 80th birthday in 1990, WRTI-FM in Philadelphia produced a series of 28 short radio programs in which he chronicled his life. Aired nationally by more than 150 public radio stations, the series received a Gabriel Award for Best National Short Feature.

Hinton received eight honorary doctorates as well as countless prestigious national and international awards. He and Mona Hinton were together for 61 years and raised a daughter Charlotte. Their lifelong involvement in their Queens, New York community, their strong commitment to family and their contribution to music and photography made them role models and an inspiration to younger generations.

Learn more about Milt Hinton’s music >>

View an album of Hinton’s photographs >>

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