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Boy Edgar bij het programma Jazz In Beeld 1970 (bron: fotocollectie Beeld en Geluid)


31-03-1915 - 08-04-1980


hard bop, jazz, swing

Boy Edgar

Self-taught pianist/trumpeter Boy Edgar (Amsterdam, 31 March 1915 - Amsterdam, 8 April 1980) is one of Dutch jazz's most flamboyant figures. He worked with many leading Dutch jazz musicians, from Kid Dynamite, Ado Broodboom, members of The Diamond Five, Piet Noordijk and Willem Breuker, to Hans Dulfer and Gerrie van ...
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1938   Kid Dynamite
1951   Ado Broodboom
1960   Dick van der Capellen
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Biography Boy Edgar

Self-taught pianist/trumpeter Boy Edgar (Amsterdam, 31 March 1915 - Amsterdam, 8 April 1980) is one of Dutch jazz's most flamboyant figures. He worked with many leading Dutch jazz musicians, from Kid Dynamite, Ado Broodboom, members of The Diamond Five, Piet Noordijk and Willem Breuker, to Hans Dulfer and Gerrie van der Klei. He also shared the stage with many international stars, including Nina Simone, Ben Webster, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Eric Dolphy. In order to finance his medical studies Boy Edgar starts performing as a trumpeter and pianist from the thirties onwards. In the sixties he becomes the leader and arranger of Boy’s Big Band, a jazz orchestra taking the hard-bop combo The Diamond Five as its core. In his sketch-like arrangements Boy Edgar leaves a great deal of room for solos and improvisation. In fact, he tries to achieve the impossible with Boy’s Big Band: a tightly swinging big band, which improvises at the same time. It leads to exciting, sometimes chaotic, but always remarkable performances both at home and abroad. The orchestra records two LPs which go down well with both critics and fans. Duke Ellington has always been Boy Edgar's great example. He himself, as the leader of the only real Dutch jazz orchestra (Boy’s Big Band is the only professional orchestra from the period solely devoted to playing jazz; other bands from the era, like The Ramblers and The Skymasters, also play popular music as well as jazz), will go down in history as 'the Dutch Duke Ellington’.

1915 - 1935

Boy Edgar is born in Amsterdam as George Willem Fred Edgar, the son of a well-to-do merchant in Indonesian products. His father, Alexander George Edgar, dies in 1935, shortly after he lost all his possessions due to the economic crisis. When Boy Edgar hears Duke Ellington's Mood Indigo for the first time, he decides that this is the kind of music he wants to make. He teaches himself trumpet and piano, and starts playing gigs, for instance at the meetings of the Dutch Jazz League in Amsterdam. With the remunerations he receives he pays his way through medical school.

1936 - 1945

In 1936 Boy Edgar wins first prize on trumpet at a contest for amateur soloists in Brussels. During the same year he joins the dance orchestra The Moochers, both as trumpeter and arranger. In the period 1938-'39 he also plays piano with Pi Scheffer's Blue Ramblers. In 1939 he becomes the leader of The Moochers, but when the Nazi authorities ban the playing of jazz in in 1942, the orchestra is forced to disband. Boy Edgar does, however, manage to play occasional gigs. In 1942 he joins tenor saxophonist Kid Dynamite's band, which performs at the Rotterdam Belvedère dance-hall. He also provides compositions and arrangements for Dick Willebrandts's orchestra, like the advanced, Ellington-like piece Ratten Op De Trap, which the band records in 1944. But most of his time is taken up by his medical studies, and he graduates in 1943 .

Dick Willebrandts Kid Dynamite

1945 - 1950

After the liberation of the Netherlands Boy Edgar becomes the regular arranger for Piet van Dijk's orchestra. He also supplies arrangements for the Metropole Orkest and The Skymasters. Most of 1946 sees him playing piano with The Grasshoppers. In 1948 Boy Edgar starts his own combo, with this band he tours Austria and Switzerland.

Metropole Orkest Piet van Dijk (1) Skymasters

1950 - 1958

Boy Edgar is employed as a faculty member at the University of Utrecht. He keeps working irregularly as a trumpeter and pianist, for instance doing a gig on 22 March 1952 with the one-off combination The Black and White Stars as support act for Dizzy Gillespie in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. On 7 July 1955 Boy Edgar receives his PhD (cum laude) in Amsterdam. His thesis was written on processes in the nervous system of multiple sclerosis patients – his wife, Mimosa Frenk, suffers from the illness. The following years he completely devotes himself to caring for his wife, and he abandons his musical activities altogether. In 1958 Mimosa Frenk dies.


On 27 December 1960 Boy Edgar returns to the jazz world as the leader of a big band. His friend and colleague Ado Broodboom assembles a sixteen piece band, taking the members of The Diamond Five as its core. The object is a one-off performance at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He asks Boy Edgar to 'come and conduct, so that the thing doesn't end in complete chaos,' as Edgar later ironically put it in a television interview. The performance is such a tremendous success that the VARA broadcasting company decides to engage the big band as a radio orchestra – and thus Boy's Big Band is born. The line-up for 27 December 1960 was as follows: Boy Edgar (leader and arrangements), Cees Slinger (piano), Jacques Schols (double bass), Johnny Engels (drums), Tinus Bruijn (alto saxophone), Theo Loevendie (alto saxophone and arrangements), Harry Verbeke and Rudi Brink (tenor saxophone), Toon van Vliet (tenor and baritone saxophone), Ado Broodboom, Cees Smal, Wim Kuylenburg and Bert Grijsen (trumpet), Karel Roberti (trumpet and mellophone), Rudy Bosch, Tommy Green and Bert Duiveman (trombone).

Ado Broodboom


Edgar's style as a band leader and arranger with Boy's Big Band leaves a great deal of room for improvisation and solos. In a newspaper interview with Rud Niemans in De Telegraaf Edgar describes his method of operation as follows: 'The musicians in your orchestra should always be your starting point. I want to approximate the idea of an improvised kind of sound, a jam session, not a defined sound. I prefer a broad sax team, a flexible line-up, and I will always try to involve people who add something extra to the band.' Some people call Boy Edgar's style chaotic. Jazz critic Eddy Determeyer in his obituary on Boy Edgar: 'The band leader seemed completely at home when everything ran out of hand. Improvising from a total chaos he always managed to arrive at an acceptable result.'


In December 1964 Boy Edgar is awarded the Wessel Ilcken Prijs, the major Dutch jazz award.


In the summer of 1965 Boy's Big Band performs at the Antibes Jazz Festival.. In order to make this possible, Edgar persuaded the Dutch authorities to provide him with a subsidy, the first ever government subsidy for a jazz band. Jazz critic Michiel de Ruyter writes about the performance in France in Het Parool: 'The orchestra gave a somewhat nervous performance. […]. The music did, however, go down well with the audience, and Dick van der Capellen's bass solo in Solitude (a free improvisation) forced the audience to listen, and gained a tremendous applause.' The end of this year sees the release of Boy's Big Band's debut LP, Now's The Time. The record contains pieces by Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, arranged by Boy Edgar. It also features original compositions by Boy Edgar (Competitive Challenge) and Theo Loevendie (Return). The album receives favorable reviews. The journal Jazzwereld votes the album Record of the Month. Reviewer Bert Vuijsje writes: '...a record where everyone performs with great zest and un-Dutch abandon. At last, a Dutch jazz album to be proud of.'

Theo Loevendie


IIn the summer Boy's Big Band performs at the Holland Festival, with guest performances by Abbey Lincoln, Ben Webster and others. Michiel de Ruyter writes a rave review for Het Parool: 'Silences charged with suspense, sound explosions, a great variety in sounds and rhythms. […] This was a feast, a marvelous feast. […] We should be grateful to Boy Edgar, initiator and motor behind all of this.' In the fall of 1966 Edgar moves to the United States to conduct research and teach at various universities. Theo Loevendie takes over as leader of Boy's Big Band, but with Boy Edgar's departure, the orchestra seems to have lost its soul.


Boy Edgar en Nina Simone tijdens een televisieoptreden Boy's Big Band's second LP, Finch Eye (recorded whilst still under Edgar's leadership), is released, and is awarded an Edison (Dutch Grammy).


Boy Edgar bij het programma Jazz In Beeld 1970 (bron: fotocollectie Beeld en Geluid) VARA television broadcasts Boy's Big Band's 10th anniversary concert, with a guest performance by Nina Simone. During rehearsals Nina Simone speaks very favorably of her Dutch colleague and hopes that 'the Netherlands will realize how great he is'. The concert turns out to be the band's swan song.

1972 - 1980

Boy Edgar en Sonja Barend bij het programma Leven In Beeld (bron: fotocollectie Beeld en Geluid) In the seventies Edgar starts the Boy Edgar Sound, a workshop-like collective with a somewhat experimental slant, which draws sold-out audiences at the Amsterdam Shaffy Theater. Regular singer is Gerrie van der Klei. Other musicians taking part in the collective are drummer Martin van Duynhoven and saxophonists Piet Noordijk, Toon van Vliet and Hans Dulfer. The latter is fired by Boy Edgar one night for being too silly during a rehearsal, to be rehired the same night, as a double paid guest soloist. In 1973 the LP Live In Shaffy by the Boy Edgar Sound is released. Jazz critic Rudy Koopmans writes in the Volkskrant of 16 June 1973: 'In the course of this year Boy Edgar has managed to create a unique atmosphere in the Amsterdam Shaffy Theater, in which intangible aspects of an erotic nature played a role that should not be underestimated. This Saturday night performances were informal, as usual, and incidentally resulted in some very strong solos.' In 1975 Boy Edgar releases the album Duke Ellington: Music Was His Mistress. It contains solos by Ado Broodboom, Ruud Brink, Toon van Vliet, and Martin van Duynhoven, and by American musicians like Benny Bailey, Art Taylor, Johnny Griffin, Jamaican born Dizzy Reece, and others. In 1979 Boy Edgar discontinues his practice as a family doctor to fully focus on jazz. His plans to tour the Sates will, however, never materialize. In 1980 he dies of a liver disease. His death comes as a surprise to outsiders, but not to his close friends who saw the different lives Boy Edgar led: as a popular and unorthodox family doctor, as a renowned researcher, and as an effervescent band leader and jazz musician. As a tribute the Wessel Ilcken Prijs, the major Dutch jazz award, is rechristened Boy Edgar Prijs.

Gerrie van der Klei Hans Dulfer

Discography Boy Edgar

In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.

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North Sea Jazz Festival (1977)
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North Sea Jazz Festival (1977)

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