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Banjo Player Ryan Cavanaugh Wants to Fuse Bluegrass and Jazz

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Banjo Newsletter Aug 2011Chilmark, MA -- Ranked by many as one the most technically proficient banjo players in the world, Ryan Cavanaugh plays jazz flavored by bluegrass, and bluegrass tinged with jazz. Cavanaugh entered the jazz world in 2006 with the help of jazz guitar legend John McLaughlin, who introduced him to acclaimed jazz saxophonist (and Miles Davis alumni) Bill Evans. Cavanaugh spent the next five years touring with Evans's jazz group around the world. Prior to that, Cavanaugh was a bluegrass banjo champion at the Merlefest, Rockygrass, and Renofest banjo contests. Ryan is interviewed in the August issue of the Banjo Newsletter by banjo player, teacher, and on-air personality Ned Luberecki.

"I have always loved bluegrass, because it is where I come from," says Cavanaugh, "but I also love the history of jazz in America, because it involves the banjo."

As Ned puts it, "Ryan Cavanaugh is possibly the most driven musician I've ever met. After discovering the banjo at an early age, Ryan was consumed by a hunger to figure it all out. Inspired by the sounds of Bela Fleck, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker and other jazz greats, Ryan set about studying music theory at an advanced level while still in high school. He also developing an amazing set of chops, applying blues, rock, Irish and heavy metal shred guitar techniques to the banjo. Sometimes he even invented new techniques, like playing single-string lines using three fingers on one string instead of two fingers. In addition to his impressive technique, Ryan plays with great tone, timing and depth."

Ryan has recorded two CDs under his own name: the bluegrass/acoustic "Songs For The New Frontier," and the full-on jazz "Ryan Cavanaugh and No Man's Land." For more information go to

Ned Luberecki plays banjo for Chris Jones & The Night Drivers and Nedski & Mojo, and is an on-air host on SiriusXM Satellite Radio's Bluegrass Junction. He also teaches banjo lessons on-line and in person. Find Ned at

The Banjo Newsletter is a 44-page monthly magazine for 5-string banjo players that has been published continually since 1973. In 2008 the International Bluegrass Music Association awarded Banjo Newsletter its Distinguished Achievement Award. For more information, please visit

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