Sunday, November 6, 2016

Irving Mills And His Hotsy Totsy Gang Featuring Hoagy Carmichael

Irving Mills (1894-1985)
Irving Mills was a music publisher and owner of Mills Music with his brother Jack. He also was a singer, songwriter, A&R man and manager of several bands that included Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Mills Blue Rhythm Band and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which he managed from 1926 to 1939. (-) The Hotsy-Totsy Gang records made under Irving Mills name between 1928 and 1930 assembled some of the greatest White Jazz musicians of the era and often produced spectacular results. Sometimes Mills sang on the records, other times he just arranged the record dates and selected the musicians. (info excerpted from the Red Hot Jazz website, here)

Here I like to focus on three sessions by the Hotsy Totsy Gang which featured Hoagy Carmichael and produced excellent recordings of some of his music.
A young Hoagy Carmichael posing at the piano
Hoagy Carmichael had arrived in New York during the summer of 1929 and was soon hired by Irving Mills to set up recording dates. Carmichael took the opportunity to pick some of the well known and respected white musicians in town and arranged three sessions for Brunswick September and November 1929 and January 1930 under the name of Irving Mills And His Hotsy Totsy Gang. The three sessions feature music composed and arranged by Carmichael and he also participates both as a piano player and vocalist. - The first session by the Hotsy Totsy Gang was scheduled on September 20 and produced four sides (see dicographical details below)

Excerpt of Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, vers. 9.0 (click to enlarge)
The first recorded tune was Harvey, a song about a young fellow with two faces. The tune was recorded both with and without vocal by Carmichael, only the vocal version was issued.
Brunswick, BR 4559 - Harvey
The arrangement of Harvey produced a hot tune in medium tempo with great contributions by the selected 10-piece ensemble

Brunswick, BR 4559 - March of The Hoodlums
The next tune recorded was Carmichael's March of The Hoodlums - one of his early hits also recorded by Ed(die) Lang and His Orchestra a.o.. Again, the arrangement for this Brunswick session by the Hotsy Totsy Gang produced a hot version

Star Dust, original sheet music by Mills Music
Carmichael had recorded the first version of Star Dust in October 1927 for Gennett with his own orchestra (- the audio of this is available here) and now he took the opportunity to record it again with the Hotsy Totsy Gang, which produced another great instrumental recording from the September 20 1929 Brunswick session (-lyrics by Mitchell Parish had not been added yet and the tempo is kept at medium-fast; it was Isham Jones and his version from May 16, 1930 which produced the first recorded issue of the tune as a sentimental ballad in medium-slow tempo)

Bunswick had a promotional feature of the label's artists and records (- known as Brunswick Brevities) produced by the National Radio Advertising Company Inc. from August 1929 to approximately March 1930 designated for broadcast only. One of these Breveties presented Irving Mills and his Hotsy Totsy Gang in two tunes, Nobody's Sweetheart and Harvey, besides the announcer Irving Mills is also heard presenting the recordings. The making of this radio promotion advert was recorded October 1929 according to Lord's discographical data (- see above), but another source mentions early 1930. More info including the audio of the mentioned Brunswick Breveties record here 

Brunswick, BR 4641 - Manhattan Rag
On November 7, 1929 the next session featuring the Hotsy Totsy Gang and Carmichael for Brunswick was recorded and produced three sides, one of them was the shown Manhattan Rag, another instumental tune by Carmichael which also was recorded by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra

The two remaining sides had an instumental version of Carmichael's What Kind of Man Is You? (- the vocal version by Mildred Bailey with Eddie Lang's Orchestra probably is the best known version of the tune) and the less known My Little Honey And Me (- not a Carmichael composition)

Two months later, Carmichael and the Hotsy Totsy Gang recorded a third session for Brunswick on January 6, 1930. The session produced four sides and participating musicians have a couple of replacements compared to the November 6, 1929 session (see discographical info below)

Info from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, vers. 9.0 (click to enlarge)
Both a vocal and instrumental version of Carmichael's High And Dry was recorded, here's the recording featuring Carmichael's vocal in another red hot tune

The two remaining sides recorded in the session featured another hot instrumental by Carmichael titled Barbaric and the unissued South Breeze; here is Barbaric by the Hotsy Totsy Gang inserted below

The music from the three sessions for Brunswick featuring Hoagy Carmichael with Irving Mills and His Hotsy Totsy Gang presented above has been reissued both on LP and CD, i.e. at volume two of the two CDs compilation of Irving Mills recordings 1928 - 1932 released by the Canadian Sensation label
CD front, Sensation, CD 769-748025-2

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