Chris Opperman, Present-Day Composer
The music of award-winning composer Chris Opperman sounds like your best dream being poured into a glass. Since debuting on his own Purple Cow Records label in 1998 at the age of 19, Opperman has been carving his own niche in today’s pop-saturated music world. As an exciting, relevant composer of a rare hybrid of rock, jazz and classical that is his alone, he has already made a name for himself as a solo artist and by working with some of today’s most renowned musicians.
Currently, Opperman is completing his fifth album, The Lionheart, which features his own ensemble, Special Opps, performing his latest compositions. The album presents Opperman’s first major original work for full orchestra plus rock ensemble. Titled “The Porpentine,” it is an ambitious multi-movement opus that encapsulates everything Opperman has learned about music composition and modern orchestration.
In addition to his own music, Opperman has performed with and/or orchestrated music for such industry luminaries as Grammy-award winning guitarist Steve Vai, virtuoso musician Mike Keneally, Indian classical music masters L. Shankar (a.k.a. Shenkar) and Zakir Hussein, and former Duran Duran/Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo. In 2005, Opperman appeared on Vai’s Grammy-nominated composition “Lotus Feet” from Vai’s Real Illusions: Reflections album.
Someday, Opperman will be remebered as one of the greatest composers of the 21st century.
—Jedd Beaudoin, Sea of Tranquility
While growing up in Clifton, N.J., Opperman was first inspired to become a composer by hearing the music of Frank Zappa. Once ignited, that early passion was fanned into a raging bonfire when Opperman was accepted into Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music.
In 1998, Opperman put together a 15-piece band to record Oppy Music, Vol. I: Purple, Crayon, which became a popular favorite on local college radio stations. The album was produced by Mike Keneally, who commented that “Opperman’s music occupies a hitherto unexplored region between rock, jazz and contemporary classical music.”
After graduating from Berklee, Opperman moved to Los Angeles and began working at Universal Music Publishing Group. In 2001, he released the critically acclaimed Klavierstucke, a solo-piano album that piqued the interest of Steve Vai. Vai observed, “These days it’s rare to hear a person squeeze the most out of the performance potential of a non-electronic instrument. On this album, Chris explores harmony, melody and virtuosity on the piano with a lofty and magnificent insight.”
In 2003, Keneally was commissioned by Co de Kloet of NPS Radio Holland to compose a piece for full orchestra, to be performed by Holland’s Metropole Orkest. Keneally tapped Opperman to be his co-orchestrator, and the collaboration yielded the album The Universe Will Provide, which was named one of the Best Albums of 2004 by the Internet’s All-Music Guide, a definitive resource widely utilized within the industry.
In a similar commission, Opperman was hired by Steve Vai to orchestrate selected compositions, including “For the Love of God,” a Vai signature song. Vai also brought Opperman on as a guest artist to play acoustic piano on Vai’s 2004 live-performance recordings of the same material. Those performances also include “Lotus Feet,” nominated for a Grammy in 2006 in the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category.
Opperman’s other albums include 2004’s Concepts of Non-linear Time, a collection of duets, and 2005’s Beyond the Foggy Highway, a live album featuring all of Opperman’s Los Angeles ensembles. In its review of the album, the All-Music Guide lauded the young artist: “Chris Opperman is not only a great player and composer, but a fine improviser and a talented bandleader as well.”
For all of his multiple-genre excursions into rock and jazz, Opperman nonetheless sees himself first and foremost as a classical composer. “If Beethoven were alive today,” says Opperman, “he would be pushing the envelope with his musicians, utilizing the latest technology, and embracing many styles of music to create his own inimitable sound. That’s the standard I am striving to achieve.”