Born in 1935 in Mounds, OK, organist Reuben moved to Pasadena, CA, when he was five and attended school with bassist Herb Lewis and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. He started playing professionally in Los Angeles, and in the mid-60s moved to New York where he worked with a range of artists from Sam Rivers and Grant Green to Roy Haynes and Willis “Gatortail” Jackson. Reuben first attracted international attention in the late 1960s with On Broadway, the first in a string of albums he made for Blue Note Records that earned him a place in the pantheon of Hammond B3 players that includes Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff , “Big” John Patton and Richard “Groove” Holmes. But his contributions to modern music go beyond being part of the soul jazz movement. His combination of jazz with pop music and R&B was an early form of fusion that inspired funk artists like Sly Stone and George Clinton. DJs Gilles Peterson, Paul Murphy and Eddie Pillar coined the term “acid-jazz” in the late-1980s and Reuben was hailed as one of the Godfathers of this movement after Gotta Get Your Own, his classic 1974 recording for Chess Records, became a hit in England more than a decade after its release. By the 1990s Us3, Tribe Called Qwest, Nas and other bands promoting this fresh sound were bringing his music to the attention of another generation of hipsters by sampling compositions by Reuben like “Ronnies Bonnie” and “Were In Love” as well as his version of the Marvin Gaye hit “Inner City Blues.
Town weighs its long-term viability vs. small-town character