Ryan Cavanaugh is a highly skilled banjo player who has made his bones playing jazz and jazz-funk music, primarily with contemporary jazz sax man Bill Evans. But like most five string envelope pushers, he was initially drawn to the instrument by bluegrass and the music of Earl Scruggs.
His own original music follows in the jazz fusion tradition, but a new single finds Ryan merging bluegrass and jazz on a track he calls Reuben’s Cube (Tribute To Earl Scruggs). It finds Cavanaugh interpreting Earl’s classic Reuben in a traditional 3 finger style, accompanied by a jazz-rock rhythm section.
Ryan takes the tune through in D (in standard G tuning) and then in G before turning it around with a jazzy chord progression. Bill Evans is on sax, Mark Egan on bass, Joel Rosenblatt on drums, and Tyson Rogers on keyboards.
It started as something of a lark, but Ryan says he is now thinking of recording some other Scruggs numbers this way.
“This track was something I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted a modern fusion ensemble to interpret a hard driving Scruggs style tune. You always hear a banjo in a band with the drums doing the ‘train beat,’ etc, with the rock band instruments attempting to come into the banjo’s world. In this case, I was in the studio with these awesome musicians and they wanted to play a bluegrass tune and twist it a little, so we twisted Reuben. The only request I had was for them to interpret this tune in their own language. This resulted in a very powerful instrumental live performance and I’m happy we decided to record it!”
The Reuben’s Cube single is available for download purchase at iTunes.
Despite the fun he had doing this track, Ryan said that his next release will again feature his original compositions.