The Master of the Trumpet Martin Banks, Master of the Trumpet
Austin, Texas is well-known for launching the careers of a number of beloved country, blues and R&B musicians. But it’s also been home to some beloved jazz artists, most notably the late trumpet player Martin Banks.
Banks was born in 1936 and first picked up a trumpet at age 4. His father and uncle played with John Coltrane in the 1930s and he was raised on the music of the jazz greats. At age 15, he moved to San Francisco to pursue a music career and found work in the early 1950s playing in the Ray Charles backup band. That job led to a 12-year stint in the house band of the famed Apollo Theater, a place in the original Motown Revue and jobs with Sun Ra and the Duke Ellington Band. He appeared on more than two dozen jazz albums and made a good living as a studio sideman while continuing his live performing career.
After a brief battle with heroin addiction in the late 1960s, Banks spent most of the 1970s and 1980s working in the touring bands of jazz greats such as Maynard Ferguson, Dexter Gordon and Roland Kirk. He played in the Broadway orchestra for “Hair” and his music was heard in a number of films, including “Cotton Comes To Harlem.”
In the early 1990s, Banks returned to Austin, where he played with the Austin Jazz Workshop, The Creative Opportunity Orchestra and the Jazz Pharoahs. He also mentored several generations of Austin Jazz greats, such as Alex Coke, Carl Settles and Elias Haslanger. He was well-known for his drop-in appearances at local high schools, where he talked about his career and enouraged young jazz hopefuls.
Martin Banks died of cancer in Austin in August, 2004.