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Milt Hinton Documentary to Air on PBS

Keeping Time: The Life, Music and Photographs of Milt Hinton, the documentary on the legendary jazz bassist, will have its television premiere on April 12 on PBS. The documentary will air as part of the PBS series “Independent Lens,” hosted by Susan Sarandon, as part of the series’ April Music Month.

The one-hour film first premiered in May 2003 at the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City as the result of a collaboration between David G. Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson. The documentary is a “living portrait” of the bassist, according to a press release, and focuses not only on the Hinton’s music, but also on his work as a photographer and historiographer of American society. The story is told through interviews with Hinton as well as Nat Hentoff, Gregory Hines, Quincy Jones, Branford Marsalis, Ray Brown, Johnny Carson, Ron Carter and Jon Faddis, among others.

The documentary places some emphasis on his some 60,000 images, from Cab Calloway to Billie Holiday to Aretha Franklin, which tell of the state of jazz through his seven-decade career and of the evolution of America, from the Jim Crow South of the 1930s to his death in 2000.

Hinton, the grandchild of former slaves, is featured throughout the film, recounting memories of the lynching he witnessed as a child in Mississippi, working as a teenager in Chicago for Al Capone, traveling with Calloway in the segregated South, defying racism in New York recording studios with the help of Jackie Gleason and of performing with icons such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Aretha Franklin.

The program also features an interactive element, found at, that offers detailed information about the film, including interviews with the filmmakers, cast and crew bios, as well as links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter.

The film naturally features a wide variety of music—40 selections are featured on the films soundtrack and of those, Hinton is heard playing bass on 32. Some of these songs are recordings with Tiny Parham and Eddie South in the early 1930s and others are recordings with artists such as Cab Calloway, Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.

Producers and directors Berger and Maxson both had long relationships with Hinton before he died. Berger’s four-decade relationship began when he was 14-year-old aspiring bass player who asked Hinton for lessons; Maxson’ relationship began after Berger hired her to help restore Hinton’s photographs twenty-five years ago. Berger and Hinton also worked together to produce two books, Bass Line-The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton and OverTime-The Jazz Photographs of Milt Hinton.

Originally Published