Tonight was going to be something different and a welcome change at that from all the non-stop Metal events that have been passing through New York City. By now I am sure that every Metal fan on the planet knows that Alex Skolnick, legendary Testament guitar slinger and member of the juggernaut known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a Jazz trio. Simply labeled The Alex Skolnick Trio, these guys deliver quite a treat for all fans of music and not only the jazz contingent. Alex and Company first gained notoriety for taking Heavy Metal classics such as “Detroit Rock City” and “No One Like You” and morphing them around with a unique and competent Jazz twist. A crazy idea one would think at first but when you hear it recorded and then witness it live you see just how well it actually works. In 2002, the Trio released their first album “Goodbye To Romance: Standards For A New Generation” and it primarily focused on the cover renditions with a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. Fast forward to 2007 on this Friday the 13th where the group would be performing a special set at the intimate Tap Bar section of the Knitting Factory. This is the club beneath the main space and it offers the perfect setting for a group like this and allows you to be right up close to the action if you choose to do so. I caught Green Carnation here when they passed through and for certain groups this is a great space to perform on. Tonight would be a special gig as I said because they were celebrating the release of their third CD entitled “Last Day In Paradise”. Balloons with AST stickers were allover the place as well as cards announcing the album and giving fans something to ask Alex and the guys to sign. Before the performance the guys were mingling about the bar and it seemed as though tonight was loaded with friends and well-wishers. I had not yet heard the new album so I glanced at the set and saw that some of the numbers would be on tonight’s menu. They opened up with one wild version of Scorpions “Still Loving You” before giving us the smoking new “Mercury Retrograde”. The Trio is made up of Alex, bassist Nathan Peck and drummer Matt Zebroski and they are really some tight unit which you will easily observe. Alex with his smooth and yet technical displays on the guitar while the suave bass work of Peck aims to hold drummer Zebroski in time. Having never been a study of Jazz drummers, I am always impressed to see what the guys who work this form do, and Matt is fantastic. Alex spoke to the crowd from time to time and recalled one of the first tunes they did together before they launched into their version of KISS’ “Detroit Rock City”. Another couple of new tunes were delivered and while “Lizard” was good it only served to set the stage for one of the most impressive versions of “Tom Sawyer” that I have ever heard. This is a majestic tune in its own right and the Trio’s version of it does it justice and shows just how jazzy Progressive Metal can get.
Alex mentioned that tonight would be special and feature some guest players before he introduced Bassist Dave Eggar who would perform on “Revelation”. The treats did not end there as the guitarist invited to the stage the lovely Alison Zlotow and Rachel Golub to accompany the group on violin. Seeing the Trio with a three piece strings section made me feel as though I was witnessing the birth of "The Jazz Siberian Orchestra". I felt that the strings added a lot more body to the already rich songs and it went over very well in its execution. I had hoped the strings would remain to complete the set when I heard the PA Tech announce to Alex through the monitor that they were out of time. At that point Skolnick held up the new CD, and thanked everyone before treating us to one minute of the tune “Western Sabbath Stomp”. Overall this was a night well spent if you ask me. Be sure to check this stuff out when you get the chance.
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Official Web Site: www.alexskolnick.com
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