“It’s about expressing the piano which for me is like coming home, that’s where it all started. If there was any one instrument where I feel most comfortable, it is the piano.” begins Jordan Rudess, the Juilliard School of Music trained pianist of Dream Theater and bespoke session musician for the likes of Steven Wilson, David Bowie, Roland, Korg as well as an extensive resume of others.
Rudess is visiting Australia and New Zealand shortly as part of his one man show “Bach to Rock” which he tags “it as a musician’s journey, it’s a combination of me playing my instrument and also telling my story using the piano as a vehicle to guide people through through my path as a musician. To put it in a nutshell, I went from being a very young classically focused musician to discovering rock music, checking out synthesizers and finally opening up to what I’m doing now. I’ve been through and enjoy a lot of different kinds of music, everything from classical to electronic and a lot of stuff in-between so this is a great opportunity for me to engage with the audience and perform. I’ll definitely play some Dream Theater, maybe some Liquid Tension, some Bach, Chopin, maybe Gershwin and tell what I think is a pretty good story that people seem to really dig. Within that frame, it’s very easy to make changes especially because it’s just me. I could walk onstage, break right into improvisation and it’s really cool. I feel out the room and play some classical and contemporary stuff. I’ll also tip my hat towards progressive rock that influenced me the most. As far as which songs I actually play, I can change it up and sometimes I’ll do it on a whim. Something could pop into my head while I’m playing and I’ll start doing it, it’s great to have that freedom.”
On what could inspire an improvisational touch to each night, Rudess answers that it could be “the kind of piano, the kind of room, it’s all going to affect the way I’m performing. One of the good and bad things about doing this is every night brings a different piano, maybe one will have a tough action one will be a light action, one will be a Steinway grand, another might be something very different unfortunately. So it can affect the way I’m playing, what I’m doing and what I decide to do as well. The piano that has a really hard action and is harder to press the keys, there’s a good chance I’m going to not play as much flashy stuff or whatever. I might decide to play the piano slowly with my nose and blow Hooties mind, you never know what to expect.”
As Rudess has a proclivity to dive into a vast arsenal of music making machines throughout his career, I wondered if it he would showcase his skills on synthesizers, he answer confirms that “it’s almost all piano except about halfway through I break out my iPad and show one of my ipad instruments, I have a company called Wizdom Music and we make cutting edge musical instruments for multi touch devices, mostly for iOS. So I will take that out and do some serious shredding. One of the things that I’ve been trying to put out there is an instrument that you could go between fretless and diatonic kind of modes, an instrument you could slide on easily from note to note like a guitar player, taking a physical slide and moving from pitch to pitch or playing definite notes and the glass surface allows you to do that in a very cool way. That sliding was my vision when I first touched the glass of an iPhone eleven years ago or so, I thought Wow there’s a lot that can be done with this, every finger could be sliding in different ways and it’ll be very expressive. My work with multi touch glass devices is aimed to help get people thinking about where where are we going with these technologies and instruments. My GeoShred app is a great application of such technology.”
Although he does touch on his fondness for the extensibility of his chosen instruments, “I am really into interfaces, with Dream Theater what I do is I pick like the most powerful keyboard I can possibly imagine, dig in technically and get the most out of it that that is possible instead of using like a lot of different equipment or even using a computer. I’ve been touring with an instrument called the Korg Kronos for years because it’s very strong and a beautiful instrument. I like to really dive into it and maximize what what is possible.”
Despite the capabilities of different synthesizers, user interfaces or alternatives, Rudess asserts that “there’s nothing like a real piano, especially a really beautiful piano. That’s how I started making music and I just love it. I’ve got an incredible Steinway grand at home that I get so much pleasure out of it’s just a joyous experience to play. It evokes a different headspace to playing a Seaboard, Continuum, GeoShred or any kind of synthesizer. It’s where I started and I’ve been really focusing on it a lot through of all these concerts I’ve been doing. I’m enjoying it so much, one could spend their whole life just playing, practicing and mastering the piano, many people do. I could easily put myself in that headspace of applying myself and simply getting the joy out of the piano. But there are a lot of sounds, there’s a lot of ways to play them and I’m into all of it. But I do get a lot of pleasure out of the piano and it’s a great means for me to express myself musically, that’s why I’m focusing these concerts on it.”
Grab tickets to Bach to Rock in your city HERE!