KEEPING TIME: The Life, Music & Photographs of Milt Hinton

A lot of you may not recognize this gentleman’s name, but I’m telling you,
in the music world, especially the jazz world, he is one of the best-known
people of all time... Would you welcome, please, Mr. Milt Hinton.

Johnny Carson introducing Milt Hinton on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, April 12, 1990

Keeping Time not only celebrates one of America's greatest musicians;
it captures his life and times through the words, images and music of his
colleagues and compatriots. I love this film!
-Leonard Maltin




This film captures the compelling life story of legendary African American jazz bassist and photographer Milt Hinton (1910-2000).
His lifelong passion to document his world musically and visually provides a unique portrait of life in 20th Century America.

Hinton performed with every major artist in jazz during a seven-decade career. He photographed Dizzy Gillespie when they shared
Cab Calloway's bandstand in the 1930s, he was shooting pictures as well as playing at Billie Holiday's last recording session,
and he captured the legendary 1958 Esquire gathering in Harlem.

Milt describes significant events - the lynching he witnessed as a child in Vicksburg, working as a teenager for Al Capone in Chicago,
traveling with Calloway in the Jim Crow South, breaking the color line in the New York recording studios, performing with icons such as
Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand, and, as elder statesman; teaching, mentoring and performing around the world.

Hundreds of photographs from Hinton's portfolio of 60,000 negatives complement archival footage and interviews with
Amiri Baraka, Nat Hentoff, Gregory Hines, Quincy Jones, Branford Marsalis, and George Wein, among others.

This film intimately embraces the rich life of a remarkable musician who recognized and recorded history as he was living it. It captures
Milt Hinton’s extraordinary spirit and his solemn commitment to pass on his knowledge and experience to future generations.

David G. Berger, Co-Director

I was a 14-year-old aspiring bass player in 1956 when I approached Milt Hinton for lessons.
It was the beginning of what became a lifelong father-son relationship. Milt worked with me on scales,
reading and intonation. He taught me the basics about chords and the creation of bass lines.

In the course of my visits to Milt’s basement studio in Queens and eventually into Manhattan recording studios,
I got to meet Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, George Russell, and Ben Webster, among other legendary artists.
Milt also took me along to record dates with Frankie Lyman, Sammy Davis Jr., Steve and Eydie and even rock 'n' roll sessions.
Between these gigs we would hang out at musician bars like Beefsteak Charlie's and Jim & Andy's.

By 1959, I had traded bass study for a major in sociology at the University of Wisconsin. At every school break, I was back at the Hintons',
intrigued by the history I heard from Milt and his colleagues - Perry Bradford reminiscing about Mamie Smith, Eubie Blake and Tin Pan Alley,
Dizzy Gillespie eager to discuss the writings of sociologist C. Wright Mills, and Illinois Jacquet discussing race relations.

Early on, I saw piles of Milt’s negatives clipped to contact sheets on practically every surface of his basement studio.
I questioned him about the photographs, jotted down names and dates, and whenever possible, recorded his recollections
about taking a particular image.

In the mid-1970s, I taped an oral history interview with Milt for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Oral History Project, and
realized immediately that his rich narrative, combined with his intimate and perceptive photographs, should become a book. Bass Line
—The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton, our first book, was published by Temple University Press in 1988 and was chosen as
Jazz Book of the Year by JazzTimes magazine. Three years later Pomegranate ArtBooks published a second book, OverTime
—The Jazz Photographs of Milt Hinton.

My 30-year career as a professor specializing in the sociology of music at Philadelphia's Temple University was inspired by
my first-hand exposure to Milt. More importantly, my values, my goals, and my worldview were shaped by our 45-year friendship.

Holly Maxson, Co-Director

I was a 27-year-old photographer with degrees in printmaking and photography, on staff at the Historical Society of Philadelphia,
when I was recommended to David Berger to work on Milt Hinton’s photographic prints and negatives. David was encountering
seemingly insurmountable problems attempting to organize and print the trove of Hinton photos for Bass Line.

Milt had used open shoeboxes to store the pictures in his frequently damp basement. Once, a sewer back-up soaked the boxes,
and prints stuck together and mildewed. Paper clips, which Milt used to attach negatives to corresponding contact sheets,
produced rust and often pinched or scratched the negative emulsion. A printer David hired before I began working on the project
had separated negatives from prints, which made it nearly impossible to match each print to its corresponding negative.
In addition, the enlarger had often been improperly focused, and many prints included only a portion of the negative frame.

I began by numbering all contact sheets and eventually located the corresponding negatives. I put the negative strips for each
contact sheet into clear archival sleeves and assembled into three-ring binders. I developed a two part numbering system for 8 x10 inch
reference prints, which identified each unique print.

Halfway into the project, my apartment flooded. I had to freeze wet negatives to prevent the emulsion from adhering to the archival sleeves.
Each negative strip had to be washed and hung to dry before being inserted into a new sleeve. I continued to Print 8x10 inch photographs
from the thousands of negatives, with Milt indicating priorities for the book and working with us to identify the subjects, years and venues
for every photo.

Another complicating factor was Milt's early use of nitrate-based 35 mm. film stock which was given to him by motion picture studio
cameramen back when nobody realized that nitrate film was chemically unstable. Many of Milt's 1930s and early '40s negatives
have yellowed and become brittle. Their fragility has prevented prints from being made. However, there are thousands of other
negatives which we continue to print and identify. I have been actively supervising the Hinton Archive for more than n 20 years.

Kate Hirson, Co-Director

I never met Milt Hinton, but I feel as though I got to know him by living with countless video and audio interviews, archival footage,
his photographs, and the stories David and Holly often recounted. Since this was their first film, I taught them the basics - a pleasant
task given their boundless enthusiasm. Sometime toward the middle of the project it became clear that the three of us shared
equally in directing the work, but more importantly, we all knew we shared the same vision of Milt Hinton.

Milt's first camera Doc and Milt Milt meets Mona Travelind with Cab
Gleason and Studios Esquire Harlem Milt's slapping Technique Helping future generations

Keeping Time: The Life, Music and Photographs of Milt Hinton

had its World Premier at the London Regus Film Festival in November 2002
and its North American Premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2003.
A shorter version was first broadcast on the PBS series Independent Lens
(ITVS) in April 2005 and was shown on local PBS stations over the next three years.

The following is a list of screenings from 2002 to 2010:


London Regus Film Festival, London, UK WORLD PREMIERE


Tribeca Film Festival, New York, NY

Marian’s Jazz Club, Hotel Innere Enge, Berne, Switzerland

New Zealand International Film Festival (Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, and Christ Church)

Kansas City 10th Annual FilmFest, Kansas City, MO

African Diaspora Film Festival, New York, NY


Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL

Portland Film Fr=estival, The Guild Theater, Portland, OR

Nashville Film Festival, Nashville, TN

Umbria Jazz '04, Perugia, Italy

Atlanta Film Festival, Atlanta, GA

American Film Institute, Silver Springs, MD

Miami Jazz Festival, Miami, FL

Milwaukee International Film Festival, Milwaukee, WI

Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT


Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa

Cinema of Jazz, Toronto, Canada

PBS - Independent Lens Series (ITVS)


University of Missouri (“We Always Swing”) Columbia, MO

National Arts Club, New York, NY

Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline, MA

Teaneck International Film Festival, Teaneck, NJ

PBS - Independent Lens Series (ITVS)


Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA

Midwest Museum of American Art (Elkhart Jazz Festival) Indiana PBS - Independent Lens Series (ITVS)


Jacob Burns Film Center, Pleasantville, NY


Westport Arts Center, Westport, CT


Brand Library, Glendale, CA

Baruch College of the City University of New York

London Regus Film Festival WORLD PREMIER

Tribeca Film Festival North American Premier Winner of Audience Choice Award



Written & Directed by DAVID G. BERGER, HOLLY MAXSON



Production Consultant BRUCE RICKER


© Slap Bass Productions, Inc.

Featuring interviews with MILT HINTON and Amiri Baraka •
Phil Bodner • Ray Brown • Ron Carter • Doc Cheatham • J
ohn Clayton • Bob Cranshaw • Bill Crow • Richard Davis •
Jon Faddis • Eddie Gomez • Nat Hentoff • Gregory Hines •
Dick Hyman • Mona Hinton • Quincy Jones • Jay Leonhart •
Christian McBride • Branford Marsalis • Dan Morgenstern •
Rufus Reid • Halima Taha • Clark Terry • Brian Q. Torff •
George Wein • Joe Williams • Richard B. Woodward

NPR Radio interview about
documentary film
“Keeping Time"
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