In recent years, much of the attention given to late bass great Milt Hinton's career and legacy has been directed at his prowess as a jazz photographer. Nevertheless, we must not forget that behind those extraordinary photographs was an equally extraordinary musician. With Chiaroscuro's recent release of The Basement Tapes,
jazz fans will find a welcome reaffirmation of Hinton's formidable gifts as both timekeeper and soloist.
Composed of previously shelved material, the disc's 14 tracks offer up a broad slice of the spectrum of styles Hinton encountered over his illustrious career. On the swingin' side of things are two Billy Strayhorn pieces, "Raincheck" and "Johnny Come Lately" - taken at pace by Hinton with the help of Warren Vaché on trumpet and pianist Janice Friedman. Both Vaché and Friedman offer keen lyrical insight and, with able hands, tend to Strayhorn's touching melodies. Hinton, meanwhile, occupies himself with tempo and swing. His bass walks - nay, runs - deftly across the rolling passes of the tunes, stopping only for an exquisite pair of solos.
On "Fascinating Rhythm," a duet with drummer Kenny Washington, the listener is again dazzled by a prodigious display of rhythmic dexterity. Throughout the piece, Washington's traps snap, crackle and pop like the burning coals of a campfire, while Hinton's fat tone casts rounded shapes and bold colors over the playfully erratic Gershwin composition.
Other highlights include a burning version of Frank Wess' "Order in the Court" and "Old Man Time," complete with Hinton's lighthearted vocals, Kenny Davern's mood-ified clarinet, guitarist Howard Alden's infectious strums (à la Freddie Green), and drummer Jackie Williams' strokes of skilled brushwork.
Above all else, The Basement Tapes
is a glaring testament to Hinton's rhythmic reliability. Like a monument at the center of town, his bass stands tall and firm carrying with it an unmistakable air of steadiness and permanency.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Howard Alden - Guitar;
Kenny Davern - Clarinet;
Warren Vache - Trumpet;
Sylvia Syms - Vocals;
Kenny Washington - Drums;
Milt Hinton - Bass;
Frank Wess - Flute, Tenor Sax;
Jackie Williams - Drums;
Janice Friedman - Piano;
James Williams - Piano.