Of all the musicians to attend the West Texas Jazz Party in the 20th Century, the most often recorded – and one of the nicest – was Milt Hinton
Born in Vicksburg, MS in 1910 and raised in Chicago, Milt Hinton joined Cab Calloway’s band in l936, and for fifteen years performed with Calloway and renowned sidemen such as Danny Barker, Chu Berry, Doc Cheatham, Cozy Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Quentin Jackson, Illinois Jacquet, Jonah Jones, Ike Quebec, and Ben Webster. During this period he was also featured on numerous recordings accompanying Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, and Teddy Wilson – to name just a few. Most of these sessions have become jazz classics.
Milt Hinton was among the most popular musicians to ever attend the jazz parties, and many locals still consider Milt and his wife Mona among their close personal friends. Bobby Crues, Al White and Dean Baker all have stories of Milt’s kindness and the time he took with young musicians, no matter what else might have been on his schedule.
After leaving Calloway in the early 50s, Milt began working as a studio freelancer in New York City. For two decades he played on thousands of jazz and popular records. He also played on hundreds of jingles and film soundtracks and numerous radio and television programs. In addition, he made concert and festival appearances around the world and toured extensively with Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, and Bing Crosby.
Milt began taking photographs of his friends in the l930s, and continued throughout his life. Over the years his collection grew to more than 60,000 images.In 1988, Bass Line: The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton, by Milt Hinton and David G. Berger was published by Temple University Press. It was selected Book of the Year by JazzTimes. In 1991, OverTime: The Jazz Photographs of Milt Hinton, was published by Pomegranate ArtBooks. In a 1994 documentary about Esquire’s photographic shoot of jazz legends in 1958, features numerous photographs by Milt as well as a home movie shot by his wife, Mona Hinton.
In 1990, Milt’s 80th year, WRTI-FM in Philadelphia produced a series of twenty eight short programs in which Milt chronicled his life. These were aired nationwide by more than one hundred fifty public radio stations and received a Gabriel Award as Best National Short Feature in 1990.
Milt Hinton would return to Midland and Odessa upwards of three dozen times, playing in each city’s jazz party well into his 80s. The most recent picture on this page is from 1994, when Milt was 84. He played the party in 1995 for the final time, when he was 85.