Born in Chicago on May 1, 1907, Alvis began on drums but switched to tuba and bass after playing with Jelly Roll Morton in 1927-28. He played tuba with Earl Hines from 1928 to 1930, and did arrangements for Hines as well.
He moved to New York City in 1931 and played with Jimmie Noone in the Mills Blue Rhythm Band from 1931 to 1934 and 1936. A very early double-bass solo can be heard on the latter group's "Rhythm Spasm" (1932). Alvis also occasionally played baritone saxophone in this ensemble as well, and was the group's tour manager. From 1935 to 1938 he played with Duke Ellington, working with fellow bassist/tubist Billy Taylor.
After his period with Ellington, Alvis played with Benny Carter, Joe Sullivan, and Louis Armstrong (in whose ensemble he replaced Pops Foster). From 1942 to 1945 Alvis played in an Army band led by Sy Oliver. After the war, Alvis played with Dave Martin until 1947, and then took a longstanding run as a house musician at the Café Society nightclub in New York City.
Alvis died in New York City in 1972, aged 65.
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