He was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula and studied classical organ from the age of 12. He entered Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo majoring in organ. While in college, the attraction of jazz piano was strong and Trudell transferred to the renowned jazz program at North Texas State (now the University of North Texas).
Trudell said even though he started on the organ, he hasn’t given it up entirely.
“I still play but not as often as I used to because of the job I have now,” he said. “The next CD I make will be an organ CD.”
When he moved to Chicago in 1990, Trudell joined the Sabertooth Quintet. It would be Sabertooth (as they’re now known) and a full decade that helped launch arguably one of the longest-running gigs on the planet -- three sets from midnight till 5 a.m. every Saturday at Chicago’s world famous Green Mill. Trudell also would go on to become pianist for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, which performs annually at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Trudell also started several bands of his own, the most notable being the B-3 Bombers. The Bombers’ 2002 album “Live! At the Green Mill” became a well-played college campus hit.
Even though the Bombers have gone their separate ways, Trudell keeps in touch, literally.
“I just came from Madison, where I played with Clyde Stubblefield,” he said. “No one can replace Clyde.”
Trudell, now 51, has called Lake Geneva home since 2000, noting what many have known for a while -- great summers and tough winters climate-wise. He landed a dream gig through a chance meeting with Greg Marcus, owner of The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee and many other properties, including the Grand Geneva Resort, where Trudell currently plays.
The Lake Geneva lifestyle suits Trudell, who also likes fishing and biking. His sets at the resort feature a trio on the weekends and him playing solo piano on Monday and Tuesday.
The crowds are varied and international, he said.
“Every night is different, and the people are not just from Chicago, they’re from all over,” Trudell said.
In his most recent release, “Dan Trudell Plays the Piano,” Trudell said he wanted to give people a taste of jazz from songs that they knew. Selections include well-known songs from Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys.
“I first thought about what I wanted to do and the pieces I play as well as original compositions,” Trudell said. “I basically wanted to put some covers of old styles, so people can get a flavor of each tune.”
As far as requests for songs during performances, Trudell said he honors them all.
“There’s not a request I don’t like,” he said. “I might be able to change the tune so it’s pleasurable for them to listen and pleasurable for me to do.”
Dan Trudell truly plays the piano. In a nod to days gone by, he keeps a small hand organ on top of his grand just to keep things in perspective, however, when listening to him in person, one can tell it’s the piano where he creates, improvises and lives.