On Saturday, August 20. Tommy Banks performed at the Alliance Church for a crowd of around 200 people during Jazz at the Lake’s Festival of All Seasons. Banks sat down with the Sylvan Lake News before the concert to discuss his passion for his craft.
What keeps you coming back to this community?
They invite me. Anytime we get to play jazz, wherever it is, we take that opportunity. Eric (Allison) and Cheryl (Fisher) have done such a wonderful job here, not just with the festival but also with all sorts of other musical things in and around Sylvan Lake and Red Deer. It is a joy to come here and play, particularly with them. Cheryl is going to join us tonight, they are playing a couple songs with us which we are looking forward to.
What would you say is distinctly Albertan
about your music?
I don’t think anything is particularly Albertan, or distinctly New York, or distinctly Bolivian, or Bavarian about jazz music. Jazz music, like all kinds of genres of music, is universal. Even if your from Kazakhstan or Poland or New York or San Francisco or Edmonton – jazz doesn’t have a particular geographic characteristic. It uses the music of geographical regions and incorporates them into jazz. Latin music has been incorporated into jazz for many years and vice versa. Most jazz is not geographically specific. It used to be the case that you could tell in the 50’s between west coast jazz and east coast jazz – but that has long since gone away. That was kind of a false distinction anyway.
What originally brought you to jazz?
I just loved hearing it. My parents were very eclectic with their musical choices and I would hear all types of music when I was at home. My father was a very good musician, playing all types of music. I therefore have the advantage of enjoying all types of music, not just jazz. But I was pulled to jazz because of its instant creativity – the fact that it is never the same way twice. Whatever happens tonight will have never happened before and will never happen again.
What keeps you motivated to perform?
I think people that have a sort of calling – I guess you would call it – professions in the old sense of the word, don’t want to stop. I don’t know any musicians who say “I’m going to retire from playing music”. It just doesn’t happen. Sooner or later the phone stops ringing I suppose and sooner or later physical limitations can make it impossible to play anymore, but I don’t know any musicians that retire. The same thing is probably true for authors, really good scientists and researchers. It is certainly true of writers. They all keep going you know?
Out of your many accomplishments, what
stands out to you?
Being able to make a decent living as a musician in Alberta. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t go outside of Alberta. In the music business, as you do in many businesses, you travel a lot. It is the nature of the business and I have been able to travel all over the world. I don’t go much outside of North America anymore, but the fact I have the honor and privilege to make a living that I like to do – I’m a very lucky person. People making a living on something they love are very lucky.
If someone in the audience were to take one thing from your show tonight, what would you
hope it would be?
Honesty. I hope they would hear what the musicians with me are here to perform and to make our best creative effort. That is my hope.
Do you feel you are still growing as a musician?
Oh yeah. Musicians always grow. They continue to learn and change and do things because we hear new things. We try new things. I hope I never stop growing.