Hayes Alvis


A sketch of Ellington with Hayes Alvis on Bass Hayes Alvis started out playing drums, but during a two year term of employment with Jelly Roll Morton from 1927 to 1928 he oomphed over to tuba and double bass. From 1928 to 1930, he played the low horn in the innovative bands of Earl Hines. After moving to New York in 1931 to collaborate with one of the top New Orleans clarinetists, Jimmie Noone, Alvis performed on both his axes with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band from 1931-1934, rejoining for another stint in 1936. Alvis specialized in bowed bass solos in this band and is sometimes credited with one of the earliest recorded double bass solos on the 1932 track entitled "Rhythm Spasm." He also played some baritone sax with this group. From the mid-'30s, he joined Duke Ellington, staying with the group from 1935 through 1938 and becoming part of one of the Duke's great rhythm sections. On drums was the dynamic Sonny Greer. Ellington experimented with twin bass lines during some arrangements from this period, with Alvis and Billy Taylor doubling up in various combinations of bass and tuba. He was also part of a vocal trio backing up one of Ellington's best vocalists, Ivie Anderson, on the record "I've Got to Be a Rug Cutter." Stints followed with alto saxophonist and composer Benny Carter, pianist and Hines disciple Joe Sullivan, and then several years with another of the music's reigning megalords, Louis Armstrong, in whose combo he replaced bassist Pops Foster. One of his final playing relationships was once again with a jazz giant, in the form of the charismatic Kansas City pianist Jay McShann. Alvis' last great band was the trio with McShann and guitarist Tiny Grimes, which toured Europe in 1970.

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