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Skolnick Trio, Alex: Goodbye to Romance-Standards for a New Generation

The title of this eclectic collection of heavy metal songs performed by an instrumental jazz trio is significant for two reasons: One, ex-Testament and current Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Alex Skolnick, double-bass player John Graham Davis and drummer Matt Zebroski are bidding farewell to the traditional jazz standards Skolnick learned to play after ditching Testament and pursuing a degree in jazz from New School University in New York, and saying hello to jazz interpretations for a new generation of music fans. Plus, it's the title of one of seven metal classics the Skol Trio covers here. There are also two original Skolnick compositions, and this worldwide re-release from Ohio's Holographic Records -- featuring a slightly different cover than the CD Skolnick self-released back in 2002 -- includes a live version of the Scorpions' "No One Like You."

From the funky flow and swinging style of KISS' "Detroit Rock City" to the bossa nova groove of "No One Like You" to the finger-snapping folly of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," Goodbye to Romance, dare I say, rocks (and swings). But toe tapping replaces head banging, and subtlety particularly on Aerosmith's "Dream On" and The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is key.

After spinning this record, you'll be able to hear Skolnick's Miles Davis influences especially on the title track plus inspiration from other jazz greats like John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and The Brecker Brothers. Feel free to be skeptical; I was. But Goodbye to Romance allows listeners to hear the essence of these classics "the flow, melodic contour, resolution and other qualities that are becoming of great musical compositions," as Skolnick writes in the liner notes and perhaps understand them in an entirely new context. This truly is progressive music.

Track Listing:
1) Detroit Rock City (KISS)
2) Dream On (Aerosmith)
3) No One Like You (Scorpions)
4) Goodbye to Romance (Ozzy Osbourne)
5) Still Loving You (Scorpions)
6) Skol Blues
7) Pinball Wizard (The Who)
8) Ofri
9) War Pigs (Black Sabbath)
10) No Like You Live (Live in Cleveland) (Bonus Track)

Added: April 13th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Holographic Records
Hits: 4927
Language: english

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Skolnick Trio, Alex: Goodbye to Romance-Standards for a New Generation
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-13 18:58:07
My Score:

After playing in two of the biggest and most important metal bands (Testament and Savatage) in the world, Alex Skolnick decided it was time to move on and explore different musical textures. Alex has always been so much more than just a typical metal guitarist who can shred his heart out. Even when he was in Testament, one of the leading forces of thrash metal, his sense of melody made him stand out among any other guitar player in the genre. His bluesy and jazzy feel became an indispensable part of his musical vision and it was clear that he would have to move on to broaden his horizons.

This isn't just an average cover album of a once-metal guitarist. While Alex covers and pays tribute to lots of rock and metal classics of bands including KISS, Aerosmith, Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, The Who and Black Sabbath, he also plays two of his own songs ("Skol Blues" and "Ofri"). Moreover the tunes sound nothing like the original versions, they are all re-worked and put into the framework of Alex's jazzy musical direction. The song patterns are quite different (and sometimes even more interesting) and rich with variety, melody and warmth.

This project took off the ground when Alex had a dream in which he heard a very beautiful melody and had to wake up. As he couldn't place the tune, he felt compelled to pick up his guitar and work it out, only to find the melody he'd heard was a jazzified version of Scorpions' "No One Like You" and the rest is history. He put together a great band employing two very talented young musicians: John Graham Davies (double bass) and Matt Zebroski (drums).

Miles Davis has always been a great influence on Alex's songwriting. This solo release also seems to follow the path opened up by Davis decades ago. The music here is unbelievably eclectic and borrows elements from rock, funk and blues. It's an amalgam of all of these textures centred around a strong jazzy background. It's very deeply constructed, yet it flows so naturally. The interplay between all the instruments gives the album its final shape.

The title Goodbye to Romance actually has a very special significance, because as we all know, the song "Goodbye to Romance" was a song on Ozzy's debut album with guitar god Randy Rhoads, who was one of Alex's idols and biggest influences. Back in the mid-90's Alex played with Ozzy for a handful of shows in England and felt deeply honoured about playing Randy's songs so when he decided to release his solo album he titled it after this tune. As stated in the booklet, it is commonly known that Randy was planning to eventually leave the band to pursue his classical music education, but was unable to due to his untimely passing. Alex, on the other hand, just like Randy, was bold enough to leave his rock stardom behind and went back to school for his music degree. Randy's spirit guided him through all the way.

This is one of my favourite instrumental albums ever and I wish Alex nothing but all the best in his future career. I know it must be hard to create something like this, but if he ever gets to put another solo album I'll be one of the first to buy it.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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