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Big time musicians in a small town: Banc and Phillips

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Big time musicians in a small town: Banc and Phillips

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Amy Hadden Marsh

Special to The Sopris Sun

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Sitting on her front porch on an August afternoon with fellow musician Josh Phillips, Ananda Banc jumps into Cole Porter’s “All of You,” a jazz standard made famous by Ella Fitzgerald.

“I love the looks of you, the lure of you….”

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Banc appears to snatch the tune out of mid-air. Her singing is effortless, pitch-perfect, and her voice spans octaves, inviting listeners deeper into the song.

Jazz is a new frontier for Banc, who recently sat in with her father, Chris Bank, at the Third Street Center’s Culture Club. Banc said the blues suits her voice well but jazz is not as easy. “It takes a good ear to do jazz,” she said.         

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If that’s true, then Banc is a natural jazz diva. Her life is drenched in music and dance, beginning with folk dancing at age 4 in Madison, Wisconsin, with her mother, Roxanne Bank. The family moved to the Roaring Fork Valley when Banc was five, where she studied ballet, jazz and modern dance.

As a teen, she learned Sufi meditation movement and African dance, often taught by her mother. “She has a talent for it,” wrote Roxanne in an e-mail. “It comes naturally for her.”  

Ananda’s dad believes that dance has given his daughter a leg up, as it were, for singing jazz, which is steeped in movement and rhythm. “You have to have internal rhythm for jazz,” he added. “(Ananda) got it early and maintained it.”

Banc has studied with singer/songwriter Lisa Dancing-Light and vocalist Jan Garrett but she has pretty much played “by ear” all her life. She taught herself how to play guitar and began belting out her own songs as a girl, inspired by Portishead, Radiohead, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple. “I like strong vocalists who do their own thing,” she said.

Unlike most of us, Banc didn’t restrict her performances to the shower. “I’ve always been a real hammy kind of person,” she explained. “Some of my earliest memories are of going out on our deck when I was about 10 and just singing, improvising,” added Banc, who is currently riding a wave of success in the Roaring Fork Valley with singing partner Phillips.

Phillips, a Who fan at age 4 and guitar slinger since high school, has a lot of respect for Banc’s work. “I’m more of an instrumentalist who can sing,” he explained. “But, I really don’t have a beautiful, nice, unique character to my voice the way (she does).”  

The two met in Carbondale 15 years ago at an acting class taught by Kether Axelrod. Banc was a student at Yampah High School in Glenwood Springs and Phillips was playing music. He’s played with the 12 Bar Flys, Fire in the Asylum, and other bands. Banc remembers him as sort of untouchable. “He was, like, this rock god,” she said, laughing.

At Axelrod’s urging, they both ended up in Los Angeles between 1999 and 2010, living at one point in a house in the Hollywood Hills with other Carbondale friends. Banc split her time between Carbondale and L.A. and had some success in television, including a part in the series “Judging Amy.” Phillips was a full-time Angeleno with roles in television, commercials and independent films. He also became an accomplished voice actor.

But, Tinsel Town took its toll. “If you’re having a rough time (in L.A.),” said Phillips, “you’re having twice the rough time.” Banc says Carbondale is much more supportive than L.A. “I mean, this place kind of won as far as the energy I wanted to have around me,” she said, adding that she sacrificed her connections in L.A. for the laid-back Carbondale life-style.       

Turning her focus to music, Banc came home in 2009 and organized local bands such as Safety Meeting, Creeping Beauty, and the Starlettes. Phillips left L.A. for Denver in 2010 with a newly formed band. When he met up with Banc again in Carbondale a couple of years later, they started collaborating on original songs and covers, ranging from the Beatles and Rolling Stones to Johnny Cash (Phillips does a mean impression of Uncle Johnny’s “wide warble”), plus Kurt Cobain, Adele and Amy Winehouse.

Both agree that acting and performing music go hand-in-hand. “Acting has helped me with confidence and feeling comfortable in my own skin,” said Banc. That may be why she’s taking on new projects like directing Carbondale’s annual burlesque show and singing jazz.     

But, despite their burgeoning success, both Banc and Phillips are getting antsy for something bigger. Banc said she’s torn between staying here and moving to New York City or back to LA. Phillips is a musician in search of a solid touring band.

“I get a big-fish-in-a-small-pond feeling here,” said Banc with a smile. “But, I’m thirsty for the ocean.”

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