Legendary Edmonton jazz pianist and ex-senator Tommy Banks dies at age 81

EDMONTON — Tommy Banks, a renowned Edmonton jazz pianist and former senator, has died at the age of 81.

His family issued a statement saying Banks died peacefully Thursday surrounded by family and staff at the Grey Nuns palliative care unit in Edmonton.

Banks’ long and impressive musical resume, which began with his professional debut in 1950, covered virtually aspect of Canadian entertainment through the years.

He won both a Juno and Gemini award, hosted “The Tommy Banks Show” from 1968-83 and numerous other TV programs, and performed throughout North America and around the world.

The accomplishments listed on Banks’ website include his role as a guest conductor for numerous symphony orchestras, including 12 in Canada, and his musical direction for Olympic and Commonwealth Games and for such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul.

Banks was a founding chairman of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts, was chairman of the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation from 1989-91, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Banks was appointed to the Senate in 2000 and served on multiple committees until his term ended in 2011. He also served on a panel which advised the government during the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

“Great sadness here in Edmonton at the news that the legendary and much loved Tommy Banks has died,” said former prime minister Kim Campbell on Twitter.

“The world has lost one of the true musical greats tonite, my mentor and dear friend,” tweeted Grammy Award winning producer David Foster. “A gentleman and a gentle man.”

Edmonton’s Winspear Centre tweeted that Banks “changed the landscape of the Edmonton music scene and will be forever remembered for his incredible talent & passion.”

Banks’ family said a celebration of life will be announced in the coming weeks and asked that their privacy be respected at this time.

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