Song:Lovely Liza Lee
Album:Jazzwomen: Great Instrumental Gals
Back in the 30s, female musicians were looked at as a novelty in jazz. The Mills Cavalcade Orchestra was an attempt to have a band with men and women in it. Unfortunately they only recorded four songs in 1935 and Lovely Liza Lee was the only record released. The man behind this band was probably the most powerful man in jazz at the time. His name was Irving Mills and he was best known as Duke Ellington's manager. But he was also the founder of Columbia Records. He was progressive because he was the first to promote mixed race bands. And he was also a promoter of women in jazz. He would later manage the great Ina Ray Hutton. And he also had his own bands like the Hotsy Totsy Gang. In the case of The Mills Cavalcade Orchestra, Mills was not actually in the band. He hired trombonist George Brunies as musical director. Brunies was known as King of the Tailgate Trombone. In the 20s, he was a member of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. And then in 1924 he was a big part of the famed Ted Lewis band. When he left Lewis in 1934, Mills called him about the Mills Cavalcade Orchestra thinking a mixed gender big band could draw. But the band never got off the ground. They recorded four songs in June 1935. Lovely Liza Lee was their only record on Columbia featuring the Boswell Sisters knockoffs The Dollie Sisters. I think part of the problem was that most of the musicians were inexperienced. It was going to be tough for Brunies and drummer Frank Carlson to keep the band together. But Lovely Liza Lee is a pretty good record and you can get it on this various artists comp from Sagajazz. By the late 30s, Brunies was in Muggsy Spanier's band and Carlson was an in demand session musician. The Mills Cavalcade Orchestra was a footnote in their careers. But a cool footnote. Here's a video for lovely Liza Lee by the Mills Cavalcade Orchestra featuring The Dollie Sisters.