• 328 pages
  • 10.5 x 9.5
  • 140 tables, 186 halftones

Bass Line

The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton

Milt Hinton, and David G. Berger

Milt Hinton, the "dean of bass players," has experienced the jazz world firsthand for more than five decades. A member of Cab Calloway's orchestra for sixteen years, he has played with most of the jazz greats of this century including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, and Dizzy Gillespie. Throughout his career he has photographed artists and personalities in the music scene who have been his mentors, colleagues, and friends. In this book Milt Hinton presents in words and photographs an intimate view of the jazz world.

This first person account of his life chronicles his early years in Vicksburg, Mississippi, his family's migration north, and his experiences growing up in Chicago's Southside. Colorful vignettes recall his first jobs as a professional musician and the texture of black urban life in the twenties.

As Cab Calloway's bass player, Hinton was part of the New York City music scene in the thirties and forties. His memoir recalls his relationships with well-known musicians and band life on the road, especially as it was affected by segregation. His evocative descriptions of the Cotton Club, the golden age of Harlem, and the subculture of musicians portray a mythic era in the music world.

From the mid-fifties to the late sixties, Milt Hinton worked as a freelance studio musician in New York. He describes the studio life, discusses the ways in which the music industry changed, and concludes with his recent activities in music. Throughout the book, approximately 200 photographs, most of which have never before been published, enhance the intimate stories that record a life, a way of life, and a cultural heritage.


"Milton Hinton is an artist not only with his bass but with his camera as well. An astute observer of people and a real gentleman, he brings out the best of everyone around him. Milt and David Berger have collaborated on a book I truly love."
Doc Severinsen

"Milt Hinton is not only one of the great bassists in the history of jazz, but a gifted and important photographer as well.... Rarely, if ever, has someone on the inside of the jazz world been gifted with such fine photographic instinct."
Modern Photography

About the Author(s)

David G. Berger is Associate Professor of Sociology at Temple University.