Raphael Rudd, 45, a daring musician

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Star-Ledger Staff

Raphael Rudd, who died Monday (April 1st) at the age of 45, was a classically trained, musically adventurous pianist with a flair for the dramatic.

Drummer Joe Goldberger, a longtime friend and collaborator who attended Nutley High School with Rudd in the mid-1970s, first met Rudd after a class there.

"People were gathering around a piano," Goldberger said. "He had some kind of jacket on with tails, I think, and he sat down at the piano and flipped the tails back. I thought, 'Who is this guy?'"

Fans of the classic-rock band The Who undoubtedly asked the same question in October, when Rhino Records released "The Oceanic Concerts," a CD documenting two-man concerts Rudd and Who leader Pete Townshend presented in 1979 and 1980.

"I regarded myself as Raphael's musical mentor during that period," Townshend wrote in the liner notes to the album. "Today, we inspire each other on a more equal footing."

Though Rudd, a composer and harp player as well as a pianist, lived in Nutley for most of his life, he moved to Los Angeles about four years ago to work on television and film projects. He suffered multiple injuries in a Feb. 27 Los Angeles car accident and had been in a coma since then.

"There was nobody like Raphael," said singer ANNIE HASLAM, who employed Rudd as a member of her progressive-rock group Renaissance and her solo bands from 1987 to 1992. "He was a unique person in every form and every way.

"He was a crazy personality, even in the way that he performed. He played like a crazy man, but a crazy man in love with what he was doing. He was very electric and vibrant in his personality."

"He played with so much heart and passion," said Goldberger. "He just put everything he had into his performances. He'd be exhausted after he played."

Rudd met Townshend in 1977 through their mutual interest in the Indian guru Meher Baba.He was working toward a bachelor's degree at the Manhattan School of Music atthe time but Townshend flew him to London to help with the orchestral arrangements for the soundtrack of the movie "Quadrophenia."

Rudd also conducted members of the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic at sessions for the soundtrack; arranged the horns on Townshend's 1980 hit single "Rough Boys;" worked on demos for Townshend's 1980 "Empty Glass" album; and presented the two concerts documented in the "Oceanic Concerts" CD. These intimate shows took place at Townshend's London studio, Eel Pie, for a few hundred invited guests -- members of the Meher Baba Oceanic Centre (founded by Townshend in honor of Meher Baba) and other friends.

From 1978 to 1980, Townshend also co-produced recordings of Rudd's own music; these tracks were combined with newer material on Rudd's 1996 double CD "The Awakening -- Chronicles." Townshend sang on one track of this mostly instrumental album; Haslam and Phil Collins also made guest appearances.

After Rudd moved back to New Jersey in the early 1980s, he worked as an assistant professor of music at Rutgers University in Newark and performed in local venues as different as the Dirt Club in Bloomfield (where he dared to play classical music for a rock-oriented crowd) and the Oakeside-Bloomfield Cultural Center, also in Bloomfield, where he presented annual spring concerts from the late 1980s until 1997.

While there was a calm, meditative quality to many of Rudd's compositions, he resisted the new-age label.

"'New Age music,' for some reason, equals an esoteric, up-in-the-clouds type of feel," Rudd told The Star-Ledger in 1996. "I would like to be considered someone who is doing something with some guts to it. I like form, I like structure, and I like to have a beginning, a middle and an end to a piece. I get that from my classical roots."