Tommy Banks was the co-ordinator (and occasional guest conductor) of Edmonton Symphony Orchestra pop programs featuring such performers as Vicki Carr, Aretha Franklin, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Tom Jones, filmed by CITV for syndication throughout North America. He filled a similar role in the late 1970s for a series starring the French composer Michel Legrand with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the US singer Jack Jones with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. He also was guest conductor of the Edmonton, Hamilton, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, and Vancouver symphony orchestras, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, usually in pop concerts. Banks served as music director for ceremonies attendant to the Commonwealth Games (1978 ) and the World University Games (1983) in Edmonton, as well as for the opening of Expo 86 and for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.
In jazz, Banks was heard in the 1970s on the CBC's "Jazz Radio-Canada" with his jazz quartet, with his big band, and occasionally as a host. The big band, featuring Clarence "Big" Miller, P.J. Perry, and others, performed at the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland; a double LP of its concert there won the Juno Award as jazz recording of 1978. In 1983 a Banks quintet travelled to Japan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, and became the first foreign jazz group to tour China. During the 1980s Banks also appeared in a variety of settings at Jazz City - eg, with his big band in 1980, with Big Miller in 1981, accompanying Anita O' Day in 1985, and with the Jazz City All Stars in 1987. As a member of the New Orleans Connection he toured Canada and Europe during the early 1990s. He continued to conduct his own big band until 2003.
Tommy Banks wrote or arranged music for the big band and composed the musical fantasies The Lady That's Known as Kate and The Gift of the Magi (heard on the CBC and subsequently performed again by the Edmonton and Regina symphony orchestras), and the score for the CBC production of Pierre Berton's Klondike (see Klondike). He also wrote and produced recordings of many jingles, and conducted orchestras for recordings by such singers as Ed Evanko, Big Miller, and Judi Singh, and for many rock and country artists and groups. He was renowned for both his skill and speed as an arranger.
Various Banks groups are heard on albums made 1962-77 for the CBC's RM and LM broadcast series (listed in the Canadian Jazz Discography) and Banks himself recorded with P.J. Perry, and in the 1990s recorded new albums (including his first solo piano album) on his own Century II label, distributed by Royalty Records. The latter company also re-issued At The Montreux Jazz Festival. Banks continued as producer and pianist for various performers until 2000, when he was appointed to the Senate of Canada and began to concentrate on political responsibilities.
Banks was chair 1978-86 of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts (which established the Tommy Banks Award for school band directors,) and 1983-7 of the music program at Grant MacEwan College, Edmonton. From 1989-95 he was a member of the Canada Council, and its policy adviser 1996-98. The recipient of the 1990 Sir Frederick Haultain prize and a 1992 Gemini Award, he was recognized by numerous other organizations. Banks was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1991, and inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1993. In 2010 he was the recipient of SOCAN's special achievement award for his contributions to Canada's music industry and musical heritage. Edmonton has named a street after him (Tommy Banks Way).
For Dancers Only. Tommy Banks Big Band. 1982/(1996) Royalty RRI-400-9650
Tommy Banks Jazz Band At The Montreux Jazz Festival. RCI 1978/(1997) Royalty RRI-300-9752
Author R. Dale McIntosh, Betty Nygaard King
Barry, Margaret. "Tommy Banks," Canadian Musician, vol 6, Apr 1984
Levesque, Roger. "'Lazy' Tommy Banks finally does a solo disc," Edmonton Journal, 7 Sep 1996
Wells, Paul. "PM jazzes up the Senate with Tommy Banks," National Post, 8 Apr 2000
Kellogg, Alan. "The Music Man's new gig: play it again, Senator," Edmonton Journal, 16 Apr 2000
Canadian Parliamentary Guide (Ottawa 2001)
Links to Other Sites
Senator Tommy Banks
The "Parliament of Canada" information page for Senator Tommy Banks.
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada
The website for SOCAN, the Canadian copyright collective for composers, authors and publishers. Check out "SOCAN Interactive" for videos and audio clips of Canadian performers. Also see the latest news about SOCAN award winners and events, online articles about the Canadian music scene, and much more.
A feature profile of jazz musician Clarence Horatius “Big” Miller. From the “Albertans: Who do they think they are?” website.
Western Canadian Music Awards
The website for the Western Canadian Music Alliance, which promotes the best in western Canadian music. Features the latest news about their annual awards gala. For a listing of previous winners and Hall of Fame inductees, click on the "Awards" link.
Tommy Banks, O.C., A.O.E., LL.D.
A biographical note for Tommy Banks from the website for the Governor General of Canada.