Alex Skolnick / Alex Skolnick Trio

Veritas

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Guitarist Alex Skolnick is best known for his work with Bay Area metal band Testament, but he also plays classical-influenced hard rock with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and was a member of prog metal group Savatage for a while. The Alex Skolnick Trio sounds nothing like any of these groups; it's a straight-up jazz trio that started out recording versions of hard rock and metal songs, but has written more and more original material on each release. This disc, the trio's first for the jazz label Palmetto, features only one cover -- Metallica's "Fade to Black." The other tunes run a fairly wide gamut, from the almost Soundgarden-ish blues-rock groove of "Bollywood Jam" to the Pat Metheny-ish "Song of the Open Road." The title track is a slow ballad with heavy-footed, almost rock drumming, while the Metallica cover, which features overdubbed guitars, ironically turns out to be more of a showcase for bassist Nathan Peck than Skolnick himself. The bassist radically expands the song's chordal parameters, thrumming along beneath the repetitive guitar figures and making Metallica swing. Other tracks explore jittery funk ("99/09") or atmospheric prog-fusion reminiscent of Mahavishnu Orchestra ("Path of Least Resistance"), and the disc ends with a "Club Remix" of "Bollywood Jam" that's interesting, but not a patch on the original. The Alex Skolnick Trio has gradually grown from an interesting novelty to a thoroughly respectable jazz-funk-rock unit, one that may yet allow its leader to be reviewed or interviewed without the words "heavy metal" appearing anywhere in the copy.

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