Legendary Edmonton jazz pianist, ex-senator Tommy Banks dead at 81

Tommy Banks, who has died at 81, 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.

Long and impressive musical resumé covered virtually every aspect of Canadian entertainment

Tommy Banks, a founding chairman of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts, former chair of the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation, and an Officer of the Order of Canada, has died. He was 81. (National Music Centre/YouTube)

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

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

Banks's long and impressive musical resumé, which began with his professional debut in 1950, covered virtually every 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.

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Officer of the Order of Canada

The accomplishments listed on Banks's website includes 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 also the musical director for Expo 86 in Vancouver.

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

Banks was appointed to the Senate in 2000 and served on several 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.

'A gentleman and a gentle man'

"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."

Sharman King, a musician in Vancouver, was a friend and colleague of Banks for more than four decades.

They played music together in the city, with King on the trombone, and later went on to found the discounted bookstore chain Book Warehouse.

"He's been very important in the musical history of Vancouver," King said. "Whatever he touched, he made better."

Banks's 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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