"When September 11, 2001, took place, life came to a standstill." So begins the self-penned liner notes to keyboardist Jordan Rudess’ 4NYC, a tribute album of sorts to humanity’s resilience. "If I could transport a room full of people with my music, while raising money for the American Red Cross," Rudess continues, "then perhaps my visit to this planet would make sense!"
In an attempt to make sense of the senseless horror of that September day, the Dream Theater keyboard player and his wife organized a solo show at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, New York, on September 24, 2001. Playing a nine-foot Steinway grand piano, as well as a Kurzweil 2600 and a Korg Karma, Rudess performed music that night by Dream Theater and his Liquid Tension Experiment side project. The rest of the material was improvised, and those are the pieces included here. He also recorded six more songs in his home studio and interspersed those recordings with seven live pieces. The result is a 60-minute album that flows surprisingly well. The live performances are stronger, but only the absence of applause after the studio tracks throws off the disc’s pacing. (A few interpretations of Dream Theater songs would have been intriguing to hear, but perhaps not in the context of this album.)
Rudess opens 4NYC with "My Thoughts," a sparse piano piece. Other songs feature lush layers. "One Voice," for example, boasts effective synthesizers that sound like choirs, while the cinematic scope of "Darkness to Day" and the uptempo "Speed As Light" provide distinct rays of hope. There’s even a version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which Rudess calls "Lamb Chops," a song that could symbolize the innocence all of us lost that September day. Rudess writes in the liner notes that his daughter, Ariana, requested the children’s song moments before he took the stage. With 4NYC, Rudess eloquently soothes not only the soul of New York but also that of a wounded nation.
(Note: A portion of the proceeds from 4NYC will be donated to charitable organizations in memory of those people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.)