Alex Skolnick is best known for being guitarist of thrash metal titans Testament but what most people are unaware of his involvement with jazz music with Matt Zebrowski on drums and Nathan Peck on bass, namely the Alex Skolnick Trio. The instrumental music the trio produce is a combination of original material in addition to metal and hard rock covers converted into jazz arrangements with highly satisfying results. With four full-length albums to their name, the trio are entirely comfortable creating sumptuous and technically proficient music outside the metal world.
The evening consists solely of the Alex Skolnick Trio, with the concert divided into two forty-five minute sets. Opening with original 'Bollywood Jam' from the latest album 'Veritas', the technical prowess of the three-piece is entirely satisfying to watch, with Skolnick working with a semi-acoustic guitar and Peck on an upright bass. The sound of the venue is nothing short of marvellous, with each instrumental balanced perfectly against each other with an aural clarity that is not common in the live environment.
The covers secure strong reactions from the audience, particularly Aerosmith classic 'Dream On' and closer of the first set 'Detroit Rock City', adding an air of sophistication and playfulness to the originals. Occasionally, the crowd sing along to the guitar melodies that follow the original vocal melodies. Skolnick is incredibly humble on stage with his in-between song banter and comes across as a very likeable character.
The first set flies by and a short interval sees the commencement of the second. Opening with The Scorpion's classic 'Still Loving You', which sounds slightly more upbeat than the original, the Alex Skolnick Trio returns to the stage with plenty of applause. More original material is performed in the second chapter of the evening, with 'Path of Least', 'Veritas' and blues number simply entitled 'Blues'. Metallica's 'Fade to Black' is reworked with the jazz punch and overtakes the original in terms of musical scope. Of course, it would not be a jazz show without some artful improvisation that sees bass and drums at different times taking the lead.
It is actually Skolnick's birthday today and a roadie gives him a cake with two candles to blow out during the show, in addition to the obligatory 'Happy Birthday' song from the audience. After 'Western Sabbath Stomp', the trio vacate the stage but the audience are keen to see more. The encore is formed with Judas Priest's 'Electric Eye', which receives a fantastic response from the punters. Heavy metal never sounded so sophisticated and given the relative sparseness of the audience, this feels like a small outrage. Skolnick is polite enough to encourage the audience to talk to him after the show and a large portion of the crowd do. This is the perfect way to end a Sunday, whether you are a fan of metal classic or jazz music in general.