If it's true that the words 'phenomenal', 'amazing', and 'incredible' have been used so frequently that they've almost lost their meaning, then the same might be said if we only counted the number of times that they were used to describe Jordan Rudess! Such superlatives would be apt if they only described his formidable keyboard technique, as anyone who has heard his recordings or seen him perform live would attest. However, Jordan's mastery extends to his compositional and arranging abilities as well as his skills as a producer and synthesist. Whether as a recording artist or performer, in his solo albums or collaborations with some of the greatest musicians in the world, the career of Jordan Rudess has been marked by a level of excellence that few can match.
A genuine musical prodigy, Jordan entered the prestigious Julliard School of Music at the age of nine for classical piano training. By nineteen, he began to include the rapidly developing world of synthesizers in his recordings and performances. Jordan’s involvement with musical technology would parallel his growth as a musician, his passion for synthesizers providing fertile ground for his musical imagination. It was destined that his exceptional instrumental abilities would become one with a unique personal sound to forge a signature style that would place him at the pinnacle of progressive music.
From early days as a sideman with jazz-rock legends Jan Hammer and Tony Williams, Jordan would go on to record and perform for many years with the Grammy Award winning Paul Winter Consort. However, in 1994 the release of his first solo album “Listen” would propel his career like never before. The album earned him the “Best New Talent” Award in Keyboard Magazine’s Annual Reader’s Poll, and it also attracted the attention of some of the biggest heavyweight acts in progressive rock. This resulted in Jordan joining forces with Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs for their 1994 tour. During this time he and Dreg’s drummer Rod Morgenstein would also collaborate as a ‘power duo’ in the Rudess/Morgenstein Project (RPM), and produce a studio album and tour in 1997.
From there Jordan’s ascendancy to progressive rock keyboard stardom would continue when in 1998 he connected with John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, and bassist Tony Levin in “Liquid Tension Experiment”. This supergroup produced 2 albums for the Magna Carta label, but the collaboration would also convince Portnoy and Petrucci that Jordan simply had to join Dream Theater. In 1999 Jordan accepted their invitation, and would go on to record “Metropolis pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory” with the band which was met with tremendous critical acclaim.
Since then Jordan has recorded 3 additional studio albums with the band, 2002's “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”, 2003's “Train of Thought”, and 2005's “Octavarium”, contributing as a writer as well as a performer. He has also appeared on several live albums with the band including the concert DVD “Score”, a live 2006 performance at New York’s Radio City Music Hall that featured Dream Theater performing with a full symphony orchestra under the direction of Jamshied Sharifi. The DVD release of this performance reached platinum in the US soon after its release.
One might assume that his full time status in Dream Theater would leave time for little else, but Jordan also released two solo albums during this time. 2001 saw the release of his second solo rock album “Feeding the Wheel” on Magna Carta Records. This album featured an impressive list of guest players including guitarists Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Billy Sheehan on bass, drummer Terry Bozzio, vocalist Barry Carl, violinist Mark Wood, and cellist Eugene Friesen.
In August of 2004 Jordan released his third solo album “Rhythm of Time”, also on Magna Carta. This record featured another mind-boggling collection of guests including drummer Rod Morgenstein, guitarists Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Greg Howe, and Daniel J; bassist Dave LaRue, and vocalist Kip Winger. Somehow in all of this Jordan finds time to appear as a guest himself on other recordings; of particular note is David Bowie’s 2002 “Heathen” album.
As prolific as this output may seem, this has really been just a selection of highlights from Jordan’s career. If you take into account the rest of his projects, his instructional books and DVDs, his online conservatory, an e-magazine called Accent, and the fact that he manages to balance all this with raising a family, you start to get some idea just how busy the man is! This is why we feel especially fortunate to have been able to catch up with him recently for a chat about his most recent projects, an inside scoop on his use of Ivory in the studio, and a few other topics of interest.
photos by Paul Undersinger | paulworks.com