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Anyone who listens seriously to jazz has heard Milt Hinton’s solid, earthy bass. The number of early jazz, swing, and swing- influenced recordings Hinton has played on must be in thousands. This grand master of the instrument died this past December after a long, distinguished career. Back in 1990, Chiaroscuro Records released a double CD entitled Old Man Time as a tribute to Mr. Hinton on his 80th birthday. It’s time to revisit this recording not only for the music but also for what the liner notes and the recorded interviews have to say about this masterful musician.
Milt Hinton was born in 1910 and after learning how to play violin he played for local Chicago area silent movie houses until the rise of the “talkies” eliminated live musical accompaniment. He switched over to bass at the age of 18 and in three years was the regular bassist for Zutty Singleton at the Three Deuces in Chicago. Five years later he joined the Cab Calloway Orchestra, and stayed from 1936 to 1951. All along, and after his years with Calloway, he was in constant demand for small group performances, playing with Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Louis Armstrong, Red Norvo, Flip Phillips, and many others. The musicians he has recorded with is literally a who’s who among jazz musicians, including Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Teddy Wilson, Johnny Hodges, Wes Montgomery, Zoot Sims, and Gil Evans. For decades, Hinton was a stalwart on the New York City jazz scene.
Hinton’s sound has always been distinctive. It is a solid singing bass that often set the tone and feel of a session. On Old Man Time he is joined by musicians he has worked with since the early days, including Clark Terry, Doc Cheatham, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Tate, Lionel Hampton and Joe Williams, to name a few. The music was recorded over several months in late 1989 and early 1990. In addition to over an hour and a half of music, the double CD also includes a long interview with Hinton, and a story swapping session among his musician friends. There’s also some interesting vocals by Hinton, including the not to be forgotten "Milt’s Rap." Overall, this recording is a friendly, living room, casual affair. Hinton tells funny anecdotes about his young musician days, and there’s a round of stories about musical adventures with Calloway. Good stories among good friends. The liner notes include quotes about Hinton from over sixty bass players, and also a wry lyric poem written by Jay Leonhart that is also a heart felt tribute to a mentor.
The musical highlights include a three- track trio session with Lionel Hampton and a two- track session with Dizzy Gillespie. Of particular interest is his long solo introduction to "This Time It’s Us" that becomes a long duet with Gillespie before this excellent quartet cooks away with John Bunch on piano and Jackie Williams on drums. On a later track, Hinton’s "Slap Happy" is a startling performance by this master of the slap bass; after his solo, he is joined by an inspired Lionel Hampton. Other highlights include a trio recording of "Time On My Hands" with Ralph Sutton on piano and Gus Johnson on drums. Cab Calloway sings a spirited version of "Good Time Charlie" with a band that includes Doc Cheatham and Buddy Tate. There’s good jazz among all the fun. Everyone was obviously having a wonderful time. Old Man Time is a warm tribute to a generous man who also happened to be a great jazz musician.
Track Listing: Old Man Time; Time After Time; Sometimes I
Personnel: BAND 1: Derek Smith, Milt Hinton, Bobby Rosengarden. BAND 2: Clark Terry, Al Grey, Flip Phillips, Norman Simmons, Milt Hinton, Gerryck King, Joe Williams. BAND 3: Ralph Sutton, Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson. BAND 4: Danny Barker, Milt Hinton. BAND 5: Dizzy Gillespie, John Bunch, Milt Hinton, Jackie Williams. BAND 6: Doc Cheatham, Eddie Barefield, Buddy Tate, Red Richards, Al Casey, Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson. BAND 7: Lionel Hampton, Milt Hinton, Jimmy Ford. BAND 8: same as 6. BAND 9: Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson. BAND 10: same as 6. BAND 11: Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson. Also, Buck Clayton composer/arranger on two tracks.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.