BWW Interview: Jordan Rudess: FROM BACH TO ROCK at Iridium

Jordan Rudess

From Bach to Rock

April 7th, 2017 at 8pm : Shalin LIu Performance Center, Rockport, MA
April 12th, 2017 at 8pm & 10:30pm: Iridium Jazz Club, New York City, NY
April 13th, 2017 at 8pm : World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA

Jordan Rudess, the keyboard wizard of Dream Theater, is going to be playing some extremely rare solo acoustic performances this month. Broadway Classical caught up with Jordan as he was preparing for his upcoming solo gigs.

BWW: Is your preparation for these solo performances vastly different that your preparation for a Dream Theater tour?

JR: Interesting question. Yes and no. Yes in the obvious ways in terms of exercises and warming up. But I guess the main difference is the level of focus required in the preparation for these shows. Specifically, it's really whole different level of focus in the rehearsal of these pieces.

BWW: Are you performing pieces that were particularly meaningful to you in your more "classical" days?

JR: Definitely some. But there also a number of selections that were not necessarily part of my classical education. One that is particularly important, is the Chopin G Minor Ballad. It's especially memorable because it was sort of the final piece of classical piano music I ever played as a student.

BWW: Do you remember the specific moment?

JR: Actually I do. I was at Juilliard in a rehearsal room practicing on one of the pianos, playing the Chopin Ballad. I had my music open on the piano as I played. When I was finished, and I thought I'd played it fairly well, I remember my piano teacher coming over to the piano and slamming the book shut and taking it away. She said: "My students do not play from sheet music, they memorize the music before they sit down to play it."

BWW: And that was the turning point?

JR: Yeah that sort of did it for me. Because at the time I was also being exposed to a ton of new music, a lot of what would now be termed prog rock. And I remember distinctly, when I was in high school, a friend of mine came over to my house and said he had something he just had to show me. So I went over to his house and he had a new Moog Sonic 6. He really didn't know what to do with it, so he asked me to check it out. And it was mind-blowing. Compared to the acoustic piano that I had been used to it was another world. It had oscillators and filters and a seeming endless amount of different sounds could be created on it.

BWW: Was there any one piece of music that swayed you to the "dark side?"

JR: There was a lot, but probably the tipping point for me was "Tarkus" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. That song was a real revelation. It opened up a whole new world of what was possible on the keyboard, both compositionally and in terms of different sounds.

BWW: Is it true that your mother cried the day you told her you were quitting the conservatory?

JR: Yes. But I had been attending Juilliard Prep long before ever auditioning for the college level program, since I was nine! I had auditioned and passed to get into the Juilliard Prep and then re-auditioned to enter the full conservatory. But by then, I had really developed a passion for improvisation, and that was frowned upon in the conservatory.

BWW: Did you ever have the desire to compose in the classical style? A full symphony maybe?

JR: Well, my album "Explorations For Keyboard And Orchestra" which came out in 2013 featured a 28 minute, 3 movement orchestral piece, which I recorded that with the Sinfonietta Consonus of Gdansk. It's first live performance, its premiere was a few years ago in Caracas, Venezuela.

BWW: Let's talk a little bit about the up-coming shows. Is the setlist exclusively classical pieces?

JR: Not at all. It's more of a story of my life and career as a musician and a performer. There are going to be several classic pieces for sure, but there will also be songs that were particularly meaningful to me as an aspiring musician.

BWW: Can you give the readers an idea of what to expect?

JR: The set list is still a bit fluid, but I'm planning to do some Chopin Nocturnes, some Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and a Bach Partida.

BWW: Will you be doing any Dream Theater songs?

Of course. There will be several. I think I'll be doing at least four of them. It's been fun finding ways to rework them into solo piano arrangements. And finding some interesting and maybe off beat choices. I'm also planning to do an audience participation section. I've put out the word thru my website that if anyone would like to come up and play or sing with me onstage, there are a couple of songs they can audition and send in to me.

BWW: Any really good ones yet?

Yes! Several! It's going to be hard choosing. We are allowing either singers or keyboardists. Singers will perform with me accompanying them and keyboard players can accompany me while I solo on GeoShred.

BWW: What songs are you allowing them to join you for?

JR: "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, "Moon Child" by King Crimson, or "The Spirit Carries On" or "Through Her Eyes" by Dream Theater.

BWW: And after these gigs, what's next on the agenda?

Dream Theater is back on the road in Europe beginning April 18th and we're there for a month. In the fall we will be hitting Asia and Australia.

Broadway Classical would like to thank Jordan Rudess for taking the time to chat with us and we wish him well at his upcoming shows.

If you wish to purchase tickets to any of his upcoming performances, they can be found at the following links:

April 7th, 2017 at 8pm : Shalin LIu Performance Center, Rockport, MA
Tickets Available At

April 12th, 2017 at 8pm & 10:30pm: Iridium Jazz Club, New York City, NY
Tickets Available At

April 13th, 2017 at 8pm : World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets Available At

-Peter Danish, Classical Editor

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