Rare Tommy Banks & Big Miller Recording To Be Released as Fundraiser for the Edmonton Jazz Society

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

The Edmonton Jazz Society and the Yardbird Suite are pleased to host the official release of a new duet album featuring the late and legendary jazz singer, Clarence “Big” Miller and Canadian jazz icon, Tommy Banks on piano.

The new release, Legacy, was produced by Edmonton native George Blondheim. Blondheim is recognized internationally as a multi-award winning composer, producer and pianist.

The nine never-before heard songs were originally recorded in August 1989 at Edmonton’s Beta Sound Recorders. With Big’s untimely passing in 1992, the recordings remained stored away on a hard drive. Now, almost 30 years later, Legacy is being released by Chronograph Records in conjunction with the Yardbird Suite’s 60th Anniversary celebrations, with proceeds in support of the educational programs of the Edmonton Jazz Society and Yardbird Suite.

Those who remember Big will now be able to hear that terrific voice, warm personality and unique delivery once again. A new audience of jazz lovers will appreciate his beautiful tone and timeless style. Big and Tommy began working together in the 1970s and travelled across Canada performing in many musical settings including duo concerts and CBC broadcasts. This rare moment in studio was intended as a demo session working toward an album, but fate intervened and Big and Tommy were never able to make the final recording Blondheim envisioned.

“Big could sing anything and make it work, and his vast memorized repertoire of blues, pop and jazz standards was all-encompassing. When George asked us to do a duet recording, Big and I instantly agreed. He kept those first tapes (there were tapes in those days!), and here they are. They evoke very happy memories of a great artist and a wonderfully big man.” –Tommy Banks

Album Details
Official release date: March 10, 2017
Available at: Chronograph Records, iTunes, Google Play and other major online retailers
Catalogue #: CR-056
UPC: 875531013016
Media copies available as of March 10th

March 11 Listening Party / Meet & Greet
7-8pm @ The Yardbird Suite, 11 Tommy Banks Way, Edmonton

Tommy Banks and Producer George Blondheim will be on hand to introduce Legacy to the public and press. George will be curating the event and sharing music (and stories) from the new album. A Q&A session and opportunities for autographs will follow.

At 8pm, the evening then proceeds into the Yarbird Suite 60th Anniversary Celebrations:
“Tommy Banks Presents Piano City” with performances by Chris Andrew, Doug Organ, Glen Halls and George Blondheim.  Tommy hosts a concert of some of Edmonton’s best piano masters.

About Big Miller (1922-1992)
Clarence “Big” Miller was a jazz musician, blues singer, trombonist, and educator born in Sioux City, Iowa. By 1960, Big Miller had sung with the Jay McShann and Duke Ellington orchestras and recorded with Bob Brookmeyer, Rex Stewart and Jon Hendricks. Miller made his Canadian debut in 1962 and took up residence in Vancouver in 1967 before settling in Edmonton by 1970 where he went on to make a significant impact on the musical and cultural scene. He subsequently led a variety of small jazz and blues bands in western Canada but also toured nationally with Phil Nimmons, and travelled abroad as a soloist. He taught at the Banff Centre and Grant MacEwan College, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Athabasca University in 1985. The subject of the National Film Board documentary Big and the Blues (1980), Miller recorded several albums during his Canadian years, including the JUNO Award-winning Jazz Canada Montreux with the Tommy Banks Orchestra (1978), Live from Calgary (1982) and Live at Athabasca College (1989). Big Miller with Tommy Banks' Big Band was released posthumously in 1997. He touched many lives with his beautiful voice, his energy and most of all, his love and respect for his fellow human beings. He was an absolute original soul and talent.

About Tommy Banks (b. 1936)
The Honourable Tommy Banks: Pianist, conductor, arranger, composer, TV personality, actor, producer, politician.

Tommy Banks studied piano as a child and began his career at 14 in the band of the jazz saxophonist Don Thompson. He went on to become a recognized TV personality as host, pianist, arranger, and conductor for “The Tommy Banks Show,” a talk show airing from 1968-74 and 1980-83 on CBC TV and 1974-76 in syndication. He was guest conductor of symphony orchestras across Canada, and served as the Musical Director for many international events including the Calgary Winter Olympics and the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

Banks was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1991, and inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1993. 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. He continued to conduct his own big band until 2003. In 2010 he was the recipient of SOCAN’s special achievement award for his contributions to Canada’s music industry and musical heritage.

Stephanie Hutchinson