Alex SKOLNICK Trio – Last Day in Paradise 2007

Alex SKOLNICK Trio – Last Day in Paradise 2007

Jazz

Alex Skolnick is a guitar player I remember marveling about back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back in those days he was a bright shining star in the world of thrash metal, leading Testament to early success in the wake of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. He burst onto the scene in 1987 with The Legacy, but it was the pair of albums Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black, in 1989 and 1990 respectively, that caught my attention.

The guy was amazing, he was fast, technical, and precise. In 1993 he parted ways with the band, going on to play with Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, among others. During that time, he also got into jazz and formed the Alex Skolnick Trio, releasing their first album in 2002. Here we are, five years removed from that album, and I am getting my first taste of Skolnick’s jazz, Last Day in Paradise.

If you have read my music reviews in the past, you will know that I am a metal guy, through and through. I will make the occasional foray into other genres, but more often than not I am out of my element in writing about them, a fact that will not dissuade me from making the occasional attempt to expand my horizons. That said, I know very little about jazz and what makes some good and others bad, but I can say that I know what I like. What I like is this album.

What I find intriguing is the deftness with which Alex has shifted genres. I know that many players can play different styles, but never have I heard a guitarist leave one genre for another and create such great music in both. If I had been handed this cold, not knowin who Skolnick was, I would have liked it, probably as much as I do now, but knowing that this is a band led by a guitar player from a premiere thrash band from my youth? Well, that is a different story. This is a completely different Alex Skolnick than the one I listened to so long ago, or even the Alex Skolnick I saw during 2005’s Testament reunion tour.

Last Day in Paradise puts another facet to Skolnick’s ability, and I want to hear more! The album features seven original compositions with three jazz translations of rock tracks mixed in. The translated songs are Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” which is nearly unrecognizable during stretches before slipping into those familiar notes that we all know, next is a song the Alex co-wrote with his Testament bandmates, “Practica Lo Que Predicas (Practice What You Preach),” which is given the jazz by way of Latin treatment, finally there is the Ozzy/Randy Rhoads track “Revelation (Mother Earth).”

To steal a phrase, this album is “all killer and no filler.” It is an album that you can lay back and groove to, or listen close and listen to each of the band member’s considerable contribution. Skolnick’s playing is smooth, clean, and unlike anything I had heard of his before. He plays with an assured confidence that is not exactly flashy, but none the less fanastic to listen to. Bassist Nathan Peck lays down some great bass grooves, particularly on “The Lizard.” Finally there is drummer Matt Zebroski, who is solid and  compliments each song delivering snappy hits that are considerably different than the metal drummers I am used to hearing.

Bottomline. This is an impressive album, the complete package of musicianship and songwriting. Skolnick continues to impress after all these years. If you want something to groove to and get some impressive fretwork at the same time, this is an album to check out. I, for one, was impressed.
By Chris Beaumont.
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On March 15, 2007, Alex Skolnick Trio will unleash “Last Day In Paradise” on Magnatude Records. It consists of seven original compositions along with three arrangements of hard rock ‘standards,’ (a concept upon which the trio has built a strong reputation as an instrumental group that appeals to straight-ahead jazz fans and rock fans alike). 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.’
**
01. Mercury Retrograde 4:32
02. Last Day In Paradise 4:51
03. Tom Sawyer 6:34
04. Shades of Grey 6:23
05. Practica Lo Que Predicas (Practice What You Preach) 5:16
06. The Lizard 5:17
07. Channel 4 4:26
08. Revelation (Mother Earth) 7:19
09. Out There Somewhere 4:48
10. Western Sabbath Stomp 5:23
**

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