Max Geldray

(1916—2004) harmonica player

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b. Max Leon van Gelder, 12 February 1916, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, d. 2 October 2004, Palm Springs, California, USA. Geldray was born into a musical family and reputed to be one of the first jazz harmonica players in Europe. His mother was a classically trained pianist, and the young Geldray inherited his father’s ability to play an instrument by ear. He bought his first harmonica when he was aged 16, and taught himself to play it. Influenced by hearing jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong on the radio, Geldray formed his own eight-piece group, which soon evolved into a quartet, the Hollander Boys. They were spotted by the English comedian and impresario Tom Moss, and travelled to the UK where they toured the variety theatres. On his return to Holland Geldray went solo, and played at the Boeuf sur la Toit Club in Brussels, and with the Johnny Fresco Band in Ostend. It was there that he met the French band leader Ray Ventura, who took him to Paris in the late 30s. Geldray was billed as the ‘special attraction’ with Ventura’s orchestra, which was considered to be one of the top bands in Europe, and he became something of a celebrity, often jamming with the legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.


From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.

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