b. 8 July 1908, Rypin, Poland, d. 20 February 1998, London, England. An influential guitarist, composer, teacher and author, Mairants moved to England with his parents in 1914, just prior to the outbreak of World War I. His father was a Talmudic scholar, and his mother ran a tobacconist’s shop in London’s East End. Young Mairants’ fascination with dance band music began when he heard radio broadcasts by the Savoy Orpheans on a primitive crystal set. He saved enough money to buy a banjo, and by his mid-teens was playing in groups such as the Magnetic Dance Band (later the Florentine Dance Band), Fred Anderson’s Cabaret Band, and the Valencians. Soon he was doubling banjo and guitar, and it was on the latter instrument that he excelled. He subsequently worked with big-name bands led by Roy Fox, Jack Harris, Lew Stone, Ambrose, Mantovani and Ted Heath. From 1940-52 Mairants served as the featured guitarist with Geraldo, and composed several guitar solos and pieces for the innovative Geraldo Swing Septet, which he led. These included ‘Russian Salad’, which was inspired by the Russians entering the war in June 1941. For most of his time with Geraldo, Mairants topped the guitar section of the annual Melody Maker poll, and made regular broadcasts with his own quintet on the BBC’s Guitar Club.
In 1950, Mairants established the Central School of Dance Music in London, and later opened the Ivor Mairants Musicentre. During his long and active life, he published many works for guitar, both jazz and classical. Mairants had a million-seller with his recording of the beautiful adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo’s ‘Concerto De Aranjuez’, and, at the behest of Thomas Beecham, he played the mandolin for Ezio Pinza in the renowned 1938/9 production of Don Giovanni at Covent Garden. As a teacher, he coached two of Britain’s top comedians, Benny Hill and Eric Sykes, and appeared on both their television shows. Mairants’ acclaimed tutor on flamenco sold consistently over the years. Towards the end of his life he composed ‘Jazz Sonatas For Solo Guitar’, and was made a Freeman of the City of London. In 1997, the Ivor Mairants Guitar Award was inaugurated, under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, of which he was a Liveryman.