Jazz trumpeter Martin Banks was born in Austin, Texas, on June 21, 1936. He was the son of Rose and Martin Buford Banks, Sr. His father played trombone in Chicago’s King Kolax Orchestra, which included tenor saxophone giant John Coltrane. Martin, Jr., grew up in East Austin and attended L. L. Campbell Elementary School and Anderson High School before moving to San Francisco to live with an uncle in 1953. He completed his high school education there and received a B.A. degree from City College of San Francisco.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the younger Banks would perform with many of the top jazz organizations, including the Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, and Dizzy Gillespie orchestras, as well as those of Sun Ra and Ray Charles. In 1960 in Los Angeles young Martin appeared on The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon, the album that revived tenor saxophonist Gordon’s recording career. He then moved to New York City and played in the house band at the Apollo Theater for twelve years. Banks also worked with Texan tenor saxophonists Booker Ervin and David “Fathead” Newman, backing up the former on his 1967 album entitled Booker ‘n’ Brass. Among his many recordings and other musical accomplishments, Banks also played on the Broadway musical Hair. For several years during the 1970s he played in the house band at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Banks returned to live in Austin in 1988. He regularly played at the Elephant Room and also taught music at elementary schools in the area. Rarely heard as a soloist with groups earlier in his career, Banks would, in later years, solo on albums produced by such Austin ensembles as Tina Marsh’s Creative Opportunity Orchestra and Slim Richey’s Dream Band. To the latter’s album entitled Live and Unrehearsed, recorded in 2000, Banks contributed a lovely muted solo on Erroll Garner’s “Misty.” An unassuming musician, Martin Banks was a dependable sideman who always added to any group that called on him for a supporting role. On February 26, 1998, along with jazz saxophonist Larry D. C. Williams, Martin Banks was honored by Austin mayor Kirk Watson who officially declared the day as “Larry D. C. Williams and Martin Banks Day.” Banks died in Austin on August 20, 2004. During his life he was married three times. He was survived by his wife Leslie and five children. In 2010 he was inducted into the Austin Music Memorial.