Saturday, December 05, 2009
Arts Center Opens Photo Exhibit by Jazz Great Milt Hinton
By Phyllis Groner
The Westport Arts Center tonight hosted a reception marking the opening of an exhibit of photographs of famous jazz musicians taken by musician Milt Hinton, one of the most recorded musicians of all time and the dean of American bass players.
Westporter Cheri Schreiver views a Hinton photograph. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
Hinton, who earned the nickname “The Judge” because of his reliability as a performer, took more than 60,000 photos during his seven-decade long career as a musician. He died in 2000 at the age of 90.
“The Judge: Jazz Photographs by Musician Milt Hinton” features 30 black and white photographs. Among Hinton’s subjects were Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday.
Tonight’s reception included a table filled with tasty food and a musical group led by Brian Torff, the Center’s new artistic director of jazz, who had three of his students from Fairfield University play background music. At times, he joined them with his bass guitar.
Brian Torff (r) makes music tonight with some of his Fairfield University students. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
The Hinton exhibit is part of the Center’s celebration of the great American art form of jazz that includes a lively mix of visual arts, music, and film.
Next week there will be a holiday concert in honor of Westport’s Sally White (of Sally’s Place record shop), and in January there will be a documentary film screening about Hinton with jazz historians, musicians, and filmmakers.
The exhibition, concert, and film screening began with a suggestion from Torff that there be a Center tribute to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hinton’s birth in 2010.
According to Torff, “Milt Hinton was a friend and mentor to countless musicians, myself included.”
He said Hinton’s photography exhibit “illuminates the humanity that is jazz and the message that is spread by creative artists, including soulful experts such as Sally White. It’s all a part of living, and these unique individuals exemplify that.”
Among reception guests were (l-r) Holly Maxson and David G. Berger, co-directors of the exhibit, Brian Torff and David’s father, Alfred Berger. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
Hinton began photographing his fellow musicians shortly after he received a $25 Argus camera as a birthday present in 1935,
‘‘I wanted to show them the way they are,’’ he explained, according to The New York Times. ‘‘Everyone sees musicians up on a stage, but I wanted to show them asleep in a bus or in a railroad station or listening intently to a playback.’‘
He graduated from the Argus to a Leica and became almost obsessive about documenting the jazz life, the Times said.
Hinton’s photographs have been shown in numerous exhibitions, including solo shows at the Denver Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.
David G. Berger, Milt Hinton and Holly Maxson in Queens, N.Y. in 1989. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) By Courtesy of the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection
They are also included in three books of photographs and reminiscences, ‘‘Bass Line’’ (1988), ‘‘Over Time’’ (1991), and “Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs” (2008).
Two of the books were written with David G. Berger, co-director of the Westport exhibit who taught at Temple University and spent years helping him catalog his photographs.
Berger was at tonight’s opening along with Holly Maxson, co-director of the exhibit and collaborator on the books.
In 1955, when he was 14, Berger asked Hinton for bass lessons—thus beginning a friendship and professional partnership that would last more than 40 years. In 1979, Maxson began organizing Hinton’s photographs for the first book.
Hinton photo of Dizzy Gillespie and friends, jazz festival, Nice, France, c.1981. Courtesy of the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection
Maxson and Berger now co-direct the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection.
In 2002, they completed their film about Hinton’s life, “Keeping Time: The Life, Music and Photographs of Milt Hinton.” The Center will screen the Tribeca Film Festival award-winning documentary on Sunday, Jan 10, at 4 p.m.
The screening will be followed by a conversation between the audience, jazz historians, and filmmakers.
The Hinton exhibition runs through Feb. 28.