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From the Inside Out

April PBS Special Honors Life, Music and Photos of Milt Hinton

By Published: April 7, 2005

He repeats later, "I just wanted to take the musicians, the way we see each other, not the way the photographers see us."

By presenting Hinton's photographs and videos, Keeping Time documents events that Hinton himself documented. These include the sad final session recorded by Billie Holiday ("It just wasn't there any more," allows Hinton) and, more happily, video footage of the legendary 1958 A Great Day in Harlem cover photoshoot for Esquire Magazine, video shot by Hinton's wife Mona on a small, hand-held camera.

It also displays a stunning array of candid portraits from his countless studio sessions, featuring Streisand, Franklin, Cooke, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett, Cannonball Adderly, Benny Goodman, and Harry Belafonte, and concludes with a "now and then" photo sequence of Hinton's greatest jazz associates, including Calloway, Gillespie and Williams, ending with a warm and wonderful portrait of Hinton himself.

The joy Hinton found in photography is as obvious as the joy he discovered in bass playing. "I say that's the closest that a man can come to having a child, is to create something like that, to see it grow," he enthuses about watching film develop.

Says author and documentary filmmaker Richard B. Woodward: "I think he photographed very much as a bassist. He's selfless, a supporting player. A bassist stands in the back and sees everything that's happening, and observes."


Keeping Time justly brims to bursting with praise for Hinton the person. Marsalis, one of dozens of younger musicians counseled by the elder bass statesman, cogently wraps up the bassist, the photographer, and the person in this single statement: "The blues are the consummate statement of optimism. Always! Because, no matter how bad it is, the way the man or woman is singing, there's always another tomorrow. And I think Milt captured that better than anybody. You don't get the sense that it weighs on him too much. He sees the good in people. He's an eternal optimist and you see it in the pictures. It's awesome."

Independent Lens' April Music Month will also feature the broadcast premiers of Parliament Funkadelic: A Lion's Trail and End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones.

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