Jewish Telegraph, October 2007
KEYBOARD supremo Jordan Rudess put his family before fame.
Leading progressive metal band Dream Theater courted Jordan for years before he finally agreed to join them.
Dream Theater first approached Jordan after their 1994 album Awake.
“Their keyboard player Kevin Moore was leaving,” Jordan told me before the group’s weekend gig at Wembley Arena.
“I agreed to one gig but it was not a good time for me to join the band.
“They were a newer band then so it wasn’t so secure and I had just had a baby daughter and realised I could be home most of the time if I joined Dixie Dregs instead.”
During his time with the Dregs, Jordan formed a duo with drummer Rod Morgenstein, releasing a studio and a live record.
He added: “Luckily, in the larger scheme of life, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater drummer) was putting together a ‘supergroup’ project, Liquid Tension Experiment, and called me up to be part of it.”
Liquid Tension Experiment released two cult albums in 1998 and 1999. And now that Portnoy had become close to Jordan, Dream Theater made another move to secure his services — and this time he succumbed.
“I was fascinated by them,” Jordan said. “They were an interesting blend of melodic rock and metal with a lot of virtuosity. I was interested in what they were doing.
“When they first approached me I didn’t know what they were like. A friend played some of their stuff to me and, while it wasn’t what I usually listened to, I thought they were good.”
As Jordan joined Dream Theater after playing with Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci in LTE, it made it easier for him to settle in.
“I was used to them as people but when were were together as Dream Theater, the parameters changed,” he said.
“They told me that they wanted me for new ideas, however a lot of them were turned down as too jazzy or too classical.
“But I felt like a member quite quickly.”
Jordan fell in love with music as a seven-year-old in New York when he studied the piano.
“I had a one-track mind as far as music was concerned,” he laughed. “My mother was surprised as she didn’t know I had been playing the piano. There were no other musicians in the family.
“But she was enthusiastic and very supportive.
“My father was in the garment industry and was blinking his eyes in amazement.”
He added: “When my mother realised I had a real talent, she quickly found me a very serious teacher.
“Within a year, I was being prepared for my Juilliard audition by my new Hungarian teacher. She had a strong temper and would kick me if I played the wrong note. But, I got into the Juilliard School’s pre-college division and began an incredible training period.”
Jordan entered the school in New York City at the age of nine for classical piano training.
“I did some professional things as a child on TV and radio but I found in later life that it’s not that easy.”
In 1994, he was voted best new talent in the 1994 Keyboard Magazine readers’ poll after the release of his solo album, Listen.
“I never really had a normal job. I did work for Korg and other instrument manufacturers giving clinics and performing concerts.”
Jordan revealed that his family and his wife Danielle’s family all came from Eastern Europe.
“My father, in his later years, was very religious and my grandfather was a rabbi,” he said.
“My dad used to take us to temple a lot and Hebrew school.
“I have two daughters. The eldest, Ariana Starr, was batmitzvah last year and the younger one, Kayla Rose, celebrates hers next year. They are more religious than me.
“They are interested in all the stories.”
He added: “Music is a more spiritual path for me. I’m respectful of Judaism. I want my kids to know where they came from and to make up their own mind.”
Jordan’s real surname is Rudes but he added the extra ‘s’ as he was “tired of people mispronouncing it”.
In 2005, Jordan teamed up with Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Israel’s top rock star Aviv Geffen to tour as Blackfield.
And last year he visited Israel to perform with Aviv for three nights.
“I heard talk that Dream Theater may be visiting Israel in the future,” he said. “During my trip there, I met the guy who runs the country’s Dream Theater fan club and he arranged a meet and greet for me with fans.”
Meanwhile, Dream Theater are going from strength to strength.
Jordan said: “It’s incredible that in 1999 in the UK, we were pretty small. It was a really hard market.”
The group’s latest album, Systematic Chaos (Roadrunner), was released this year to critical acclaim.
In addition, Jordan has been much in demand by fellow musicians and he has a hugely successful solo career.
Jordan performed on David Bowie’s Heathen album. He said: “If I thought too much about the fact that I was working with Bowie I may have got star-struck, but I don’t think he knew who I was.”
He has also worked with Prefab Sprout and many others.
Jordan has released 10 solo albums including, curiously, Christmas Sky featuring 11 festive tunes and one track he had specially written for Xmas.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Jordan released the album 4NYC featuring tracks performed at a special concert to raise funds for the American Red Cross.
His latest solo album, The Road Home (Magna Carta), features cover versions of tracks “close to my heart”.
He said: “I’ve covered songs which were the biggest influences in my musical life.
“When I was younger these are the songs I would play over and over. They showed me the power a keyboard could have.”
Tracks are Sound Chaser (Yes), Dance on a Volcano (Genesis), Just the Same (Gentle Giant), Tarkus (ELP), original track Piece Of the Pi and JR Piano Medley.
Dream Theater are currently touring Europe but play King George’s Hall, Blackburn on November 11.