Milton John "Milt" Hinton (June 23, 1910 – December 19, 2000), "the dean of jazz bass players," was an American jazz double bassist and photographer. He was nicknamed "The Judge".
Hinton was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he resided until age eleven when he moved to Chicago, Illinois. He attended Wendell Phillips High School and Crane Junior College. While attending these schools, he learned first to play the violin, and later bass horn, tuba, cello and the double bass. As a young violinist out of school, he found gainful employment as a bassist. He later recounted in interviews, released in 1990 on Old Man Time, how this prompted him to switch to double bass.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he worked as a freelance musician in Chicago. During this time, he worked with famous jazz musicians such as Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, and Art Tatum. In 1936, he joined a band led by Cab Calloway. Members of this band included Chu Berry, Cozy Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, Jonah Jones, Ike Quebec, Ben Webster, and Danny Barker.
Hinton possessed a formidable technique and was equally adept at bowing, pizzicato, and "slapping," a technique for which he became famous while playing with the big band of Cab Calloway from 1936 to 1951. Unusually for a double bass player, Hinton was frequently given the spotlight by Calloway, taking virtuose bass solos in tunes like "Pluckin' the Bass."
Hinton played a rare Gofriller Double Bass during his latter career. The bass was in pieces in a cellar in Italy and a musical agent arranged the purchase from the family for Hinton. Hinton in his autobiography "Bass Line" described the tone as magnificent and said it was one of the reasons for his long success in the New York recording studios in the 1950s, and 1960s.
He later became a television staff musician, working regularly on shows by Jackie Gleason and later Dick Cavett. His work can be heard on the Branford Marsalis album Trio Jeepy.
Hinton twice received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for his work as a jazz educator: a music fellowship in 1977 and an NEA Jazz Master award in 1993.
According to a search of The Jazz Discography, Hinton is the most-recorded jazz musician of all time, having appeared on 1,174 recording sessions.
Also a fine photographer, Hinton documented many of the great jazz musicians via photographs he took over the course of his career. Hinton was one of the best friends of jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
Hinton died in Queens, New York City, New York at age 90.
1955: Milt Hinton Bethlehem High Fidelity
1955: Basses Loaded
1955: Milt Hinton Quartet Bethlehem High Fidelity
1956 : The Rhythm Section Epic
1975: Here Swings the Judge Progressive
1977: The Trio (Chiaroscuro Records)
1984: Back to Bass-ics Progressive
1984: The Judge's Decision Exposure
1990: Old Man Time Chiaroscuro
1994: The Trio: 1994 Chiaroscuro
1994: Laughing at Life