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Photos may be used at no cost.  When used, please make note:  Courtesy of the Chris Banta Trio.

Chris Banta Trio


Photos may be used at no cost.  Please make note:  Courtesy of the Chris Banta Trio.
Chris's father, Milt Banta, who worked for the Walt Disney Studios as a story man, played piano and did many dance gigs.  He also owned many 78-rpm records that were a variety of big band, jazz, and boogie-woogie styled performances.  It was those unique sounds and boogie-woogie pianists that inspired Chris to tinker around on the piano. Although tricky fingering patterns, Chris stuck with it to learn how to sync up both hands and build that muscle-memory required for this style of piano playing. Self taught, piano was starting to become a major part of Chris's life.  Like dad...a chip off the old block.
In 1969 and to avoid the draft, Chris enlisted into the US NAVY.  After bootcamp he was assigned to the USS Paul Revere naval ship, which was a potential piano practicing stagnation problem because the ship did not have a piano on board.  So, anytime the ship pulled into port, Chris went out looking for a piano to play.  While stopping in Japan Chris would scout out and occasionally sit in with some of the local bands. 
Also, while on leave, he would return back home, but somehow the old familiar spinet piano didn't seem to be enough.  It was time to obtain a better instrument.  Through an ad in the paper, Chris located an old upright piano.  Since it was too big and heavy to store in his parents’ house, he ended up storing it in his parent's carport and played it whenever he came home.  A few years later, while attending school at Cal-Arts (California Institute of the Arts) in 1974, Chris was actually to be a Shakey's Pizza ragtime piano player...a daunting reality in performing in front of an audience.   By the early 1980's, Chris moved up to  the slightly more respectable Clearman’s Northwoods Inn where the lumberjack steaks ruled the dining rooms along with empty peanut shells and saw-dust laden floor. Ragtime and blazing boogie-woogies ruled the restaurant's bar area!  Sometimes within the 1980's we just needed to jam in the rusticness of the backyard.
A few years later Chris moved to the quaint little Tilton's Trolley Stop (Pasadena) where he played foot-stompin' boogie-woogies and blazin’ stride piano pieces against a back drop of the ever present clattering of dish washing and clanking of bar served drinks.  Harmonica and horn players continued to follow Chris around to sit in which always added to the festivities and musical energy.  Sooner or later most good things tend to come to an end, and Tilton's folded in 1987 and Chris hit the pavement for better and more stimulating musical endeavors.
In 1987 along came Pasadena's Dodsworth Bar & Grill where Chris offered Pasadena's Old Town street scene a jazz trio, using the traditional piano-bass-drums rhythm section.  As Chris ’popularity grew, guest horn players, often looking for rhythm sections (e.g. piano, bass, and drums), would often show and asked if they could sit in. The elegant Lesley Baker offered the woman's touch to the jazz-driven upright bass playing for Chris's trio.  Having gained more and more popularity, Chris’ trio was playing four nights a week and packing the Dodsworth lounge.  In addition to this heavy schedule, Chris’s trios and quartets were steadily invited to Pasadena's Concerts-in-the-Park concert series, the city's art fairs, fundraiser events, an occasional wedding reception, and the trio adopted a "take any gig you can get" mindset. Life was good!
In the 1990,'s Chris's trio went to work down the street at the Italian Fisherman restaurant and lounge.  He added a tenor sax player who brought a really cool sound to the room.  In addition to the regulars, Chris was attracting professional horn players who loved to sit in and play jazz.  In particular, one horn player, who backed Ella Fitzgerald, would come in after many of the Hollywood Bowl concerts and join the group.  During his four-year stint at the Fisherman, Chris changed from a quartet to a jazz trio that included two lovely and tenacious ladies, Jennifer York on Bass and Robin Rader on Alto Sax.  During that time Chris also pulled together a different jazz quintet, which included a singer, for the Walt Disney Imagineering talent show in the Glendale Civic Auditorium.  Life was better then ever!
In 1994, Chris was married and moved to Thousand Oaks where his wife lived.  In 1996 his trio played at Dockside Terrace in Westlake and then Milano II West in 1997, and a Walt Disney Imagineering noon concert in 1998.
In 2000 Chris was invited to provide music at the Red Hat's Society Luncheon with bass player, Clarence Robinson.  In 2006, Red Fish in Simi Valley, invited Chris's trio to perform on their patio which was shared by other businesses.  In 2007 he performed at My Florist Cafe in Ventura with bass player Danny Young and drummer Joe Correro.  Later on, at the Walt Disney Imagineering Day at the Walt Disney Studios with Albert Alva on Sax, Joe Lanzisero of Drums, and Danny Young on Bass.
In 2010 Chris's group was invited to play on a hilltop residence in the backyard.  That year he played with a blues band for Glendale Centennial celebration.  In 2012 the trio was all dressed up trio for Sherwood Country Club gig.   And in 2013, his band played at the Sagebrush Cantina Battle of the Bands, and then at the Saugus Blues Festival Blues Society.  The trio was also invited to provide jazz and birthday parties.  
From 2011 to 2015 Chris had a four-piece blues band who performed regularly at Malibu Wines, a wonderful outdoor wine tasting room which could hold hundreds of customers. Upon retirement from Walt Disney Imagineering, Chris was given a cartoon piano-playing portrait.
In 2016 Chris landed a job at the old and quaint Smoke House restaurant in Burbank across the street from the Burbank studios.  In addition to that, he was also performing regularly at Gauchos Steakhouse in Glendale and in Thousand Oaks automotive dealerships such as O'Gara Coach Company, Rusnak BMW and Audi dealerships, and wineries such as: the Sunland Vintage Winery and then DeLiese Cellers Winery which unfortunately had to close because of covid. 
Chris's trio has provided event music for country clubs and various fundraisers.  Chris was also contacted by the Local Rotary and was invited to perform at the Thousand Oaks Annual Street Fair and his trios have performed for the street fairs for the past five years.
In 2018, Chris joined the Thousand Oaks chamber of commerce which turned out to be a clever move in that he would bring his trios to the chamber's monthly "meet-and-greet" hosting events to liven things up.  Afterall, what better way was there of introducing yourself to the chamber's members rather than just handing out business cards?  The trio would provide actual live music so the chamber's members could hear the musical offering his trio could provide.  Talk about live in your face marketing which led to additional gigs.  Consequently, Chris's trios were invited to perform at service-oriented organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Conejo Free Clinic Annual Dinners, the Compassionate Conscience organization, and Sherwood Country Club Fundraiser events.  During that time, his trio continued to perform at chamber gatherings and quaint little wine bars such as Blue Table in Agoura.  
Along the way, Chris continued to do lunch-hour gigs at Walt Disney Imagineering, the Saugus Blues Festival, costumed birthday parties, and the International Blues Festival in Santa Clarita.
Within his home base in Thousand Oaks, Chris picks up additional local gigs at such restaurants as Pedal & Pints brewery, Five Hands Brewery, Pizza Cookery, Julios Agaves Grill in Westlake, and continues to please audiences at the Smoke House.  The trio has just finished performing for the Community Conscience annual "Mardi Gras" fundraiser in the Westlake Hyatt Regency Hotel. And, Chris occasionally performs solo piano at the Disneyland Coca Cola Pavillion.
What a fun ride...and always looking for many more musical adventures!!
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