Peter Banks (1947-2013), An Appreciation by Linda Dachtyl
The following is contributed by the Columbus Ohio area organist, drummer, educator, and recording artist Linda Dachtyl. Thanks from the bloggers at Progarchy for her willingness to share it here! (Pete)
I was saddened to learn of Peter Banks’ passing when I read fellow eSkip bandmate Larry Smith’s Facebook entry this morning. While I can’t say I have everything Peter ever recorded, I was always inspired and impressed with his playing, his contributions to the first two Yes LP’s, later with Flash, and the various solo works I had heard over the years.
I am most familiar with his work with Yes as far as any “drop the needle” test is concerned. I became a fan of Yes and progressive music in general from hearing some radio hits and then being introduced to various other progressive bands by my grade school friend and fellow prog rock enthusiast, Pete Blum, who invited me to share some thoughts on Peter Banks.
Fragile was my first introduction to Yes, and to pieces developed beyond the single, or in the case of “Roundabout”, the “single edit”. The purchase of The Yes Album soon followed, and then came the waiting for the release of Close to the Edge. I immersed myself in these three LP’s and couldn’t wait to hear more.
I recall seeing a couple of earlier Yes albums, which I was not familiar with at all, in various record stores. On a lark, I bought both and thus learned of the fine guitar work of Peter Banks, the original guitarist of Yes and originator of the group name.
One of Peter’s greatest strengths was his skilled improvisation, deeply influenced by jazz in his choice of timbre and linear playing. This was first evident to me on the creatively reworked cover of The Byrds “I See You” from the first Yes LP. Banks and Bill Bruford’s sensitive interplay put me in mind of a Wes Montgomery/Elvin Jones meeting, and opened my ears to free jazz improvisation.
He added many tasteful guitar leads, accompaniments, and vocal harmonies to the first two Yes LPs. I can’t think of any more easily recognizable use of the minor 6th chord than in the opening of “Astral Traveller” from the Time and a Word LP. There a single chord becomes the hook of the song, much like the opening chord to The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”. I also always enjoyed his tasteful use of volume swells throughout both albums, and particularly on “Survival”.
The tremendously innovative cover of “Every Little Thing” shows genius. While these were group efforts in terms of finished product, I cannot imagine these tunes without Banks’ original innovative contributions.
Over the years, it’s been nice to see video of his earliest documented work with Yes live, especially on the selections from Time and Word without the orchestral layering. While enjoyable to listen to on the studio recording, the layering was not necessary to complete any of the arrangements or compositions.
My collection of Banks’ works beyond his time with Yes is a bit spotty, but I enjoy Flash’s “Lifetime” in particular, again looking to the innovative musical arrangement. Peter’s acoustic work on “The White House Vale” is a favorite of mine from Two Sides of Peter Banks.
While I am not a guitarist myself, it was easy to appreciate the tasteful approach Peter had to his music, and he will be missed.
Chicken Coup recording artist, Hammond B3 organist and drummer Linda Dachtyl is a member of the faculty of Kenyon College, teaching jazz piano and percussion. She is a graduate of the Conservatory of Music at Capital University (B.M. in Jazz Performance) and The Ohio State University (M.A in Percussion Pedagogy).
Currently she leads a traditional soul/jazz B3 quartet along with her husband, drummer Cary Dachtyl. She is a member of the eclectic rock group eSkip, drummer for the psychedelic power trio, The Walt James Band, and has appeared on festival dates as a Hammond B3 organist with saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini, the late B3 organists Trudy Pitts and Gloria Coleman, and on studio recordings and festival appearances with blues singer Teeny Tucker.
(Author photo by LeeAnne Dauwalder-Heath.)