Monty Banks- In New Orleans
by Dean Shapiro
Seattle native, Las Vegas Strip veteran and now a fully acclimated New Orleanian, pianist/vocalist Monty Banks is a refreshing blast from the past. As one reviewer put it, It doesnt get any more old school Vegas than this.
On this, his debut CD, Banks tackles a dozen pop standards in the vocal style of Sinatra and other crooners of his generation, with the advantage of being his own accompanist.
Comparisons to Harry Connick Jr. would not be off the mark here.
Banks mastery of the 88s shines through on such classics from the Great American Songbook as Blue Skies, Come Fly with Me, L-O-V-E, Nature Boy, The Sunny Side of the Street and one of my favorite Jerome Kern compositions, The Way you Look Tonight.
Every song on the CD has a cheerful, uplifting feel to it, due in no small part to Banks own upbeat persona both onstage and off. You cant help but feel the urge to sing along with him.
As for backup artists, it doesnt get much better than Tommy Sciple on bass and Paul Thibodeaux on drums, both of whom provide a solid foundation for Banks styling but without overpowering him.
Monty Banks Takes Las Vegas –
“Monty Banks does it his way”
“Monty Banks is climbing the Strip ladder, playing Las Vegas old-style”
“Monty Banks… is one of the few performers in town deserving of the phrase, "can’t miss." A breath of life from old Vegas….Banks is like a straight shot back to the Rat Pack days, a Vegas lounge singer who loves his audience and performing with class and style.”
by Molly Brown Vegas Weekly
“Lounge king Monty Banks started playing his
old-school-singer & ivory-tickler stylings around here back in '91,
well before the cocktail nation craze, and now finds himself mostly
working down in entertainment’s vast holy land of Las Vegas. To
those many Seattleites fortunate enough to have celebrated life with
Monty, it is surely of little surprise. The man is made for the Strip.”
“Monty carries himself with the confidence found only among true professionals.”
by James Kirchmer, The Stranger
“Monty Banks and his showgirls did the scene proud”
by Rock Chick, Las Vegas Weekly
” What’s Hot in Seattle …the Rat Pack inspired Monty Banks”
by W. Clark Humphrey, Seattle Magazine
by Grant Cogswell, The Stranger
From “Authentic lounge: Bandleader attracts fans of all ages
with his distinctive old-school beat ”
“It doesn’t get any more old school Vegas than this…”
Geoff Carter, Vegas.com
“Piano-playing lounge god Monty Banks”
by Dayvid Figler, Las Vegas Mercury
“Lounge kings Monty Banks the High Rollers…”
by Jeff Inman , Vegas.com
by Armand Nex, Organ and Bongos.
“The Showbox Music Club grooved to the big-band-era sounds of Seattle’s Monty Banks and the High Rollers”
by Justino Aguila, Seattle Times
“Monty Banks, one of the most frequently performing pianists
and singers around, has front-line experience with the increasing popularity
of the “swing scene.”
Monty Banks is climbing the Strip ladder, playing Las Vegas old-style
By Molly Brown
monty photo vegas weekly molly brown article
Monty Banks is immersed in a velvet chair, cigar in one hand, greyhound in the other. He jokes with the waitress with a glint in his eye, his upper body busting some sweet dance moves, and flashes his unique grinbearing all his straight teethcurling his whole face into nothing short of pure jolliness.
In a few minutes hell grace the stage.
Well, I better go change into my monkey suit, he says. Every divas gotta have their costume change, right? How is it I can put on a suit and still look fed up?
Its pretty dead on this Wednesday night at the Venetians new Venus Lounge, but by four songs into the set, hes got a few people out there dancing. And most of the short-attention-span Vegas audience are enthralled. Rarely breaking eye contact with the crowd, Banks pounds away on his keyboard, his left foot tapping the entire time, as he belts out classic hits like Frank Sinatras Ive Got the World on a String. Casually sipping from his cocktail throughout, he comments, I always drink when I play. Its in my contract.
After his two sets, he sits back down and sips more from his drink. Several people come up to thank him and compliment the show. Banks, whos always quick to crack a joke, even manages to be funny when hes being straightforward. As he gets up to go the bathroom, he says, I know itll cost me a buck to wash my hands, so when I know Im gonna be shaking 35 hands, I carry one of these.
And then he pulls out a Binions wet wipe, giggles and walks away.
If you havent caught Monty Banks yet, rest assured he is one of the few performers in town deserving of the phrase, cant miss. A breath of life from old Vegas, he and his High Rollerstonight Chad Burton on guitar sitting in for Mike Powers and Doug Frye on the drums performances could be described as casual with flare. Banks is like a straight shot back to the Rat Pack days, a Vegas lounge singer who loves his audience and performing with class and style.
Ever since he was a little kid in Tacoma, Wash., Banks has been performing. Hed put on neighborhood shows doing magic, even inventing some tricks of the trade that magicians use today. The music didnt come until he started accompanying his elementary school choir on pianoIve always been the accompanist, he says.
His father, a jazz musician, and his mother, a singer, were huge influences. Theyd play together at homehis dad on the drums, him on the piano. They even didnt mind when Banks and his crappy junior high band, Novawhich covered all the great butt-rock classics like Smoke on the Waterwould play in the basement. In fact, he was also part of a bagpipe-playing family, which sealed his fate.
My favorite thing was, after parades and stuff, wed go into this biker bar, and thered be the Shriners, the bagpipers and the bikers all getting shitty. It was at that time I learned that musicians drink for free.
He didnt go to music straightaway. In fact, there were a few years where Banks didnt play at all. He was a performance artist in New York Cityeven touring his one-man Buck Dukes Wild Sex Show, a Western-inspired carnie, around Canada. But that idea quickly burned out.
Even the top avant-garde performance artists in the world are starving to death, Banks says over steak at Careful Kitties in the El Cortezone of his favorite hangouts. So I was starving to death in New York City. Thats a very bad place to be poor. And I thought, What am I doing? Musicians can make good money. So I got a piano.'
But New York was getting tiresome. So it was back to Washington. This time Banks hit Seattle in 91right in the beginning throes of grunge. While long-haired Gen-Xers were holing up together in cheap houses trying to become the next Soundgarden, Banks and his buddies were cranking out old Dean Martin tunes.
My drummers grandparents owned a roller-skating rink and his grandma played the organ and then DJed. So she had all these old records. And when he told her what we were doing, shed make us cassettesthese little, cheap tapes with the grandma handwriting on them. We still refer to them as the grandma tapes.'
Banks first gigs? In nursing homes. The people loved themtheyd line up the wheelchairs waiting for them to arrive. Banks and the High Rollers learned how to click with the audience perfectly herethey knew the people by name, and they knew their favorite songs.
The Seattle rock clubs were nextsmall, dingy, dark bars where Nirvana played before they become famous. Banks and Co. would play at punk barsand get the punk rockers laughing and dancing. Then Banks got a job accompanying one of Seattles more fashionable singers at ritzier places. And that got him gigs regular, well-paying gigs.
Soon, Monty Banks and the High Rollers became a Seattle staple, getting requests to play any and everythingweddings, corporate gigs, bars, restaurants, ballrooms. Saturation, however, became a problem.
Id be bored if I was still there, says Banks. There isnt that much further I can go up. Im too young to keep repeating things.
So it was off to Vegas, a city Banks refers to as the mecca for entertainers everywhere around the world. He arrived here a little more than a year ago, and within days he was meeting the movers and shakers. He went to all the lounges and studied the actsciting Sonny King and Sam Butera as two of his favorite classic, old time Las Vegas entertainers.
Essentially, Banks soaked up every ounce of Old Vegas he could find.
They exemplify the ethics I feel are important, and theyve always done it like this. When they go on a break, they go into the audience and talk to them. They have people whove been following them for 30 years. They have that personal connection. Thats what Vegas was built on.
And thats exactly what Banks does. Besides his own big band, jazzy boogie songs, he likes to incorporate other performers into his act. DJ Bazooka Joe spins old-school records between sets. Hes had guest performers come and sing. Comic relief through actors. And, recently at Tropics, a Storm dancer broke out with a tap-dancing demonstration.
All in the name of returning to Vegas golden age.
I love walking into the Plaza and hearing, Monty Banks
is in the house and they pull me up on stage. Or playing that
little piano at the Golden Gate. It makes my heart feel good to play
an old song, and see those old farts tapping their toes, eating shrimp
cocktail. Now thats entertainment.