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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Alex Skolnick Trio


Review by Gary Hill

Alex Skolnick is a true artist, not content to sit still in one musical genre. Certainly he is probably best known as the guitarist for the metal band Testament, his first professional gig. Ultimately, though, his interest in other musical styles (his exposure to Miles Davis serving as the trigger) caused him to move into other fields. I am including this album in the progressive rock genre both for his involvement in prog and near prog groups like Attention Deficit and Transiberian Orchestra, but also because his sense of musical exploration put him in that vein even if this album does not specifically fit. In fact, this disc is purely a jazz album, with a traditional trio format. He is joined here by Matt Zebroski and Nathan Peck.

The album is a combination of originals and covers. With the covers, though, while the album is jazz his choice of material to pay tribute to is certainly not. Indeed, the one that probably falls the closest is "Money" by Pink Floyd. The rest of the covers, with the possible exception of Deep Purple, come in firmly in the metal category. In addition to the aforementioned artists, Skolnick and company turn their musical sights on songs by such unlikely candidates as Judas Priest, The Scorpions and Iron Maiden. My challenge to the listener, though, is to give the disc a spin without looking to see what song is which. As different as his arrangements are, I think you will be hard pressed to even hear the original songs in these versions.

This is a very entertaining and unique album from a talented group of musicians. If you are a fan of more traditional jazz, or creative music in general this one will be a treat. Fans of metal might decide to drop by both because of Skolnick's musical history and to hear his renditions of classics from that genre. They might wind up staying around when they realize that, although it's a huge change of pace from their favorite genre, this is still a very strong album. Personally, this reviewer is looking forward to hearing more both from Skolnick and this outfit.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
This one comes in slowly and with discord. It alternates between smooth jazz and more dissonant and slightly funky for a time. Eventually a scat-like non-lyrical vocal line enters, then the band move to several varying instrumental passages ranging from fusion to mellow Latin and a variety of other sounds. The overall effect of the piece is a bit like Al Dimeola meets Alan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny. At a later point a fusion guitar solo is joined by more of those vocals to dramatic effect.
Electric Eye
The first cover of the album, this, if you can believe it, is a jazz reworking of "Electric Eye" by Judas Priest. Even knowing that, it's difficult to believe it from hearing this upbeat, but fairly mellow jazz number. This is a sheer brilliance really. It includes a great double bass solo from Nathan Peck and an equally cool drum solo from Matt Zebroski.

Fear of Flying
 This starts tentatively and eventually a mellow jazz texture takes the track. After some time they bump up the intensity a bit while still maintaining a calming overall texture.

Another cover, this time hitting territory closer to jazz, the Pink Floyd classic. This one again barely resembles that one, but is a killer mellow jazz number.
Both Feet In
This smooth jazz jam has a bluesy texture at times. It's melodic and enchanting.
As one might guess from the title, this one is a bit faster paced, and oh so tasty. It's one of the high points of the disc and definitely smokes at times. At almost seven and a half minutes it's also the longest track on the disc, and every one gets the opportunity to show off a bit.
Yes, here they take on the Scorpions. Starting with a short conversation about a blackout, this one is more easily recognizable as to its source material. Still, it's all jazz and very entertaining. They drop it way down later for a very mellow bass driven segment.

INV/The Trooper
The first half of this medley is an original mellow jazz jam based on a nice guitar melody line. Tit shifts into the Iron Maiden classic, again nearly unrecognizable here. The bass drives much of the track.

No Fly Zone
This one is a bit more free form fusion orient number. The bass definitely steals the show for a while on this one. It sounds a little Crimsonish at times.
Don't Talk to Strangers
This is a very mellow acoustic jazz take on a Dio song. It's very pretty and slow. This one is quite a relaxing piece that almost has a lid back Latin feel at points.

Highway Star
The final track on the CD is a cover of the Deep Purple cut. They turn in an energetic jazz excursion that is a lot of fun, but once again barely resembles the original. They throw in a cool Eastern tinged interlude before launching into a cool laid-back free form segment. The only real screaming on the album comes in this one in the form of a smoking Eastern oriented guitar solo. This makes for a great conclusion to a great disc.

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