This fine big band was originally formed by drummer Willie Lynch as the Blue Rhythm Band in 1930 and as the Coconut Grove Orchestra, provided backup to Louis Armstrong on some records. In 1931, Irving Mills became their manager and the group was renamed the Mills Blue Rhythm Band.
Lynch's departure later that year resulted in Baron Lee fronting the band until Lucky Millinder took over in 1934. The big band recorded frequently during 1931-1937 (all of the recordings have been reissued on five Classics CDs) and, although the orchestra never really caught on or developed its own personality, its recordings did document many fine performances.
Among the sidemen were pianist Edgar Hayes, altoist Charlie Holmes, Joe Garland on tenor, drummer O'Neil Spencer, and by 1934, trumpeter Red Allen, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, and clarinetist Benny Bailey. Later editions included altoist Tab Smith, pianist Billy Kyle, and trumpeters Charlie Shavers and Harry "Sweets" Edison. When the group broke up in 1938, Lucky Millinder formed his own big band.
Many of the Mills Blue Rhythm Band's recordings are now considered jazz classics by collectors. Original records regularly appear on auction lists (which indicates that they did sell records over their lifespan), and recent reissue and remastering projects have made their recordings more widely available.
Mills Blue Rhythm Band - 1933 - 1936 pt. 1
Mills Blue Rhythm Band - 1933 - 1936 pt. 2
(256 kbps, front cover included)