Feeling the inspiration of European jazz and other influences, the group has now gone beyond the limitations of the traditional guitar trio format on many of the songs, incorporating electronic loops (’Last Day In Paradise’), vocal melodies (’Mercury Retrograde’) and slide guitar (’Western Sabbath Stomp’). There are also special effects, bowed bass tracks and other studio embellishments, resulting in their most original and cutting edge album to date. The new album also includes a Latin version of the Testament song “Practice What You Preach” (which Alex originally co-wrote) and a live electronica inspired version of Rush classic “Tom Sawyer.’
The Alex Skolnick Trio was born in 2001. A heavy metal guitar hero with the San Francisco based group Testament, Alex had decided to leave the Bay Area, move to New York, soak up the jazz scene and go back to school to earn his music degree from New School University. It was here that he met a young drum prodigy named Matt “Zebar” Zebroski who, as it turned out, had been a Testament fan as a youth in Pittsburgh. The two began rehearsing regularly, practicing standards and reviewing homework assignments. Within a few months, they hit upon a magic formula: songs of their youth, reharmonized and revamped to incorporate high level modern improvisation. A short time later, the trio had versions of Kiss, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, the Who and more, as well as original compositions and were covering a wide range of musical styles: swing, funk, Latin and moments of John McLaughlin/Jimi Hendrix/Miles Davis inspired intensity.
Their debut recording "Goodbye To Romance: Standards For A New Generation” (Skol Productions) was released in March 2002. Anticipating a less than enthusiastic response from mainstream jazz media, the group was pleasantly surprised when, less than a month later, an entire column was devoted to the album in Billboard (Jazz Notes; April, 2002). Within a year, “Goodbye To Romance” had been awarded 4 1/2 stars by Downbeat (March, 2003), was featured in magazines such as Jazziz (March and April, 2003), The Village Voice (February 26th, 2003) and more, had reached #26 on the JazzWeek radio charts (August, 2002) and was listed as a “Top Seller” on the on-line retail site CDBaby. Alex and the Trio performed at such notable music industry conferences as CMJ (New York, NY, 2002) and at SXSW (Austin, TX, 2003) and toured throughout the country to packed houses in such places as Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Texas, New York City and the Rochester International Jazz Festival. They’ve since appeared live on XM Satellite Radio, Fox Morning News, Brother Wease, and many other radio stations including WNEW (New York), WCPN (Cleveland) and WGMC (Rochester).
The next trio release was in “Transformation”, the group’s debut for major indy label Magnatude, and the first with new bassist Nathan Pack. “Transformation” continued the the concept of the first album, with arrangements of music by Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Pink Floyd and others, but also placed more emphasis on the groups growing repertoire of original compositions. Great reviews followed, including Jambands.com who said “By taking charge and writing more originals tunes on this album than the first offering, the group has been able to grow exponentially.” AllAboutJazz.com compared Skolnick to jazz/rock pioneer Larry Coryell: “Like Coryell, Skolnick demonstrates that translating the energy of rock to a jazz context can be a more subtle thing, showing that you can imbue more traditional trappings of swing, modal playing and richer harmony with an edge that doesn’t spoil their essential purity. “Transformation” is a surprising record that succeeds on many levels and proves that it is indeed possible to shift gears mid-career and sound like you’ve been doing it all your life.’
’Last Day In Paradise” begins a whole new chapter for Alex Skolnick trio. Many of the songs reflect a collective feeling of disillusionment with the state of the world: on the liner notes Alex writes: The title “Last Day In Paradise” represents a philosophical outlook. While every era has had its share of troubling global events, what has happened in the world in the last few years, on bath a political level and a social one, has been more disturbing than any period I can recall in my life. Indeed, it’s time we learn to live everyday as if it is our “Last Day In Paradise.’
Alex Skolnick: www.alexskolnick.com