John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Jordan Rudess

John Wenlock-Smith – Good afternoon Jordan, how are you doing now?

Jordan RudessHello John, yes, I am doing fine thank you. We are all safe and well as can be at this moment in time.

JWS – Lets talk about ‘LTE3’ (The forthcoming new album from Liquid Tension Experiment) that is due out in April, I have a download of it and I think it is a fabulous set of pieces, I really like it.

JROh I am glad that you like it. I was not quite sure what you were going to say but I like a lot too. I am enormously proud of what we managed to get done, especially with this pandemic. It allowed us a window of opportunity to allow LTE (Liquid Tension Experiment) to be once more. It has only taken us twenty years in which a lot has changed but some things have not changed much at all really. We are still the same musicians, just a bit older now but still willing to try this experiment once again. Hopefully the response will be positive from all quarters, like the Dream Theater fans and the fusion fans too.    

JWS – I Like it, the opener Hypersonic is certainly fast and furious, was that deliberately so?

JRYes, we wanted something that would either attract or dispel the listener, I think that we succeeded on that score.

JWS – I agree, I think it set you up for all that is to come. I especially like the track Rhapsody In Blue, a reworking of a piece previously played live.

JRI have always liked that Gershwin piece, although it has been so long since we last did that song that I had to rethink my approach on keyboards to do it.

JWS – Well I think it is a stunning take on what is a classic musical piece. What other songs do you especially like? I see you have your piano right there, play me something please will you?

JRWith pleasure, this is the song Shades Of Hope (Jordan then proceeds to play this jaw droppingly fantastic piano line from the song, his playing is impeccable and for an audience of one!)

JWS – Wow! thanks Jordan, that was fabulous. I have just bought an 88 key digital piano for myself ,although It will be years before I am anywhere near proficient.

JRWell, keep playing, is what I would say to you. I started when I was 9 years of age and I am now 64 but I still love music as much now as when I first started, possibly even more so truth be told.

JWS – I am looking forward to getting the new album. I am going to get the 2CD version with the extra tracks on it, those sound interesting, although I’ve yet to hear them.

JROh you will like those I think, we got to do even more wild playing for those.

JWS – So how did those sessions work out?

JR Well, we recorded it at Dream Theater’s New York base of operation. I kind of thought it might be odd for Mike (Portnoy) as he’d not been there since he left the band but he was totally cool with it all and even offered some memorabilia for the complex. But, overall, it was just great fun, four friends who value each other musically and socially. Tony (Levin) brought his famous coffee machine again to keep us going, it was all such a great vibe. I think the results honour the commitment made by each member to the proceedings.

JWS – Did you use your normal Dream Theater keyboard set up?

JRPretty much, although I did tweak a few sound settings. John (Petrucci) pointed out that my sound was a bit stale sounding and, as he is the master of tone, I listened to his suggestions and we got to the sound that we felt was what we wanted.  

JWS – So will there be any opportunity for some live LTE shows? Possibly when covid is over and activities resume normally?

JRWell I certainly hope there would be but only once we have sorted out activities for the main band. We are all busy, Mike is always busy with either Neal Morse or his own projects, as is Tony with all that he does. We are all remarkably busy hence the twenty years gap between ‘LTE2’ and this new album.

 JWS – Have you been active during lockdown Jordan?

JRYes, I have been busy with my sound company and I have also recorded a new solo album. I have also been busy with my Patreon site, using it to connect to other people. Depending on their support level, they can access tutorials and even have a one-to-one conversation. My latest solo album ‘Chapter In Time’ is on bandcamp only.

Check it out, it is just me playing mainly piano pieces and a few textural keyboard sounds to create some ambient type of music. I think you might like it, is mellow and chilled, good to relax to or listen to in the background. 

JWS – I also saw your performance of Tarkus on the recently issued Keith Emerson tribute concert. That was some performance of the whole of Tarkus!

JRThank you, Tarkus is an important piece for me, that is the track that stopped me being just a classically trained pianist and made me want to rock out. So I owe Keith Emerson a huge debt of gratitude for that song, it was a privilege to be able to honour him in that way.

JWS – I agree, I have also got that on CD and I have your own version on ‘The Road Home’ album.

JRThat’s a good album, I like that one, with some great players, Neal Morse, Rod Morgenstein and Kip Winger, Nick DiVirgilio, and Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, amongst others. I had a lot of fun with that album paying tribute to some of my influences.   

JWS – So what does the future look like for you, apart from this new ‘LTE3’ album? oh, very impressive artwork by the way!

JRYes, I think it is terrific too. For me, it’s more Dream Theater, once we can get back together safely and tour once again. I am 64 now and still love this life and I appreciate every day that I get to live it too.

JWS – Jordan, my time has gone so all that remains for me is to say a huge thank you for making the time to speak with you. I have really enjoyed my time with you, I wish you well for this album and hope to see you live at some point in the not too distant future.

JRThanks John for a great interview, all the best to you too, my friend.

You can order Jordan’s solo album here:

A Chapter In Time | Jordan Rudess | jordan rudess (bandcamp.com)

And you can pre-order LTE3 here:

LTE3 (lnk.to)

Review – Fanfare For The Uncommon Man – The Official Keith Emerson Tribute Concert 2CD/2DVD – by John Wenlock-Smith

Keith Emerson needs little or no introduction, he was a monster keyboard player for Emerson, Lake and Palmer of course, though he was also successful in his own right as a composer. Sadly, as he grew older Keith lost some of his astounding dexterity and, despite operations to his hands, sadly felt that his abilities to perform had become diminished significantly. This resulted in him falling into in severe bouts of depression and even alcoholism, which all became too much for him and he took his own life by gunshot on 11th March 2016 in Santa Monica, California. The world was shocked that one of the finest keyboard players of recent times was no more.

Well, that was five years ago now and his life was celebrated in style in 2016 when an all-star band of LA’s finest musicians assembled at the El Ray Theatre in Los Angeles to play his music and remember and acknowledge the inspiration that he had been to many of them over the years. The upshot of this is a concert movie and 2CD set of the event being released this year by Cherry Red Records in a lavish package with simply amazing artwork and production values, along with interviews with the various band members and photo galleries of Keith and his life and times, all of which together chronicles this very special and memorable night for posterity.

The list of musicians featured is mighty impressive including members of Toto and Dream Theater along with Eddie Jobson (UK and Roxy Music), Jeff Baxter (Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan), Brian Auger, Rachel Flowers, C J Vanston and many others, like Marc Bonilla of Keith’s old band and his close friend who was a major mover in getting the show together. The event also featured Emerson’s son Aaron, and members of his solo band and his Three Fates Project group.

The CDs capture live recordings of all the songs featured in the movie although sometimes in a truncated version. The sound is excellent throughout and the material is largely drawn from the first Four ELP albums, with four songs from the self-titled debut, two from ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, three from ‘Tarkus’ and three from ‘Trilogy’ plus Karn Evil 9: First Impression – Part 2, Touch and Go (from ‘Emerson Lake and Powell’) and Fanfare For The Common Man in two versions, one with brass orchestration and the other with Blue Rondo A La Turk improvisation.

I have to say that, whilst this is a fabulous set, there are a few pieces that I would have liked to have seen covered, namely Jerusalem, Trilogy and Piano Concerto to name but three, also there is a marked lack of anything from the latter days’ reunion period, but this is most probably me just nit picking. What is here is perfectly fine and has some incredible musicians performing some extraordinarily complex pieces with skill, style and panache. Everything is played in a very sympathetic manner, with great respect to Keith, who was obviously a much loved, and now sadly missed character.

Marc Bonilla sings very well indeed throughout, as do the other vocalists, Marc also delivers some great guitar lines on here, mirroring and adding to what the various keyboard players are playing. The Performances are all exceptionally good indeed, those of C J Vanston and Rachel Flowers shine especially. Brian Augers interpretation and improvisation on Fanfare For The Common Blue Turkey is quite different and really captures one’s interest. Another highlight is the delight of seeing Eddie Jobson playing the modular Moog synthesizer on Lucky Man.

Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater delivers a powerful performance on the 20 minutes plus rendition of Tarkus, a track he gleefully states as a major influence on his playing. Here he revels in the performance of this in a suite of songs where Tarkus is the penultimate track before the encores are offered, namely Lucky Man/The Great Gates of Kiev and Fanfare For The Common Man, with Are You Ready Eddy? concluding the show.

I know in some quarters that ELP have become a dirty word full of excessive showmanship and not offering much for the listeners of today. However, I disagree completely and suggest that this music needs to be rediscovered again and given its rightful place in the annals of progressive rock. 

So, if you like the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Keith Emerson then this set offers you both two excellent CDs and a full length DVD (plus a second DVD of bonus features) that captures this magnificent concert in all is spectacle and power, just sit back, turn the volume up and let the Moogs fly again. Best played loud, just as Keith would have wanted, this certainly is a most enjoyable stroll down memory lane, if you have 3 hours or so to spare. Brilliantly filmed, well presented and produced, the music offered on these discs reminds us of just how great a keyboard player and composer Keith Emerson truly was, along with why he should be remembered as such. I applaud all who took part for the great music they made and are now are able to share with us, sit back relax and enjoy this again and again.

Released March 19th 2021

Order from Cherry Red Records here:

Fanfare For The Uncommon Man: The Official Keith Emerson Tribute Concert, 2CD/2DVD Edition – Cherry Red Records

Dream Theater Enters Studio to Begin Writing Fourteenth Studio Album and Announce an Upcoming Facebook Live Q&A

In late 2017, Dream Theater signed with Sony Music’s progressive imprint InsideOutMusic.  Now, in preparation for the band’s fourteenth studio album and their first album ever produced in collaboration with this leading worldwide label, they are pleased to announce that they have entered the studio to begin the writing process.  Recently, John Petrucci and James LaBrie shared a quick video update from the writing sessions on the band’s official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dreamtheater

James comments: “We’ve been here for one week and it is going sensational. Everybody is in the one room…and I gotta tell you, if the first week is any indication of where this album is going, you’re in for a treat.”

John adds: “There’s a lot of ideas flowing, and it’s already been really productive after only a week in. So far the music is heavy, progressive, melodic, shredding and it’s epic.”

The band will hold a live Facebook Q&A with fans during their time in the studio on June 28th at 3PM Eastern Time / 8pm UK time.  Make sure to tune in!

For a first impression of the studio, watch John’s tour here:https://www.facebook.com/johnpetrucciFB/videos/1974052929313376/

Dream Theater is:
James LaBrie – Lead Vocals
John Petrucci – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
John Myung – Bass Guitars
Mike Mangini – Drums, Percussion

Find Dream Theater online:
www.dreamtheater.net
https://www.facebook.com/dreamtheater
http://twitter.com/dreamtheaternet
http://instagram.com/dtimages

INSIDEOUT MUSIC online:
www.insideoutmusic.com
www.youtube.com/InsideOutMusicTV
www.facebook.com/InsideOutMusic
www.twitter.com/InsideOutUSA
www.insideoutmusicshop.com