Guitarist and Berkeley, California native Alex Skolnick was originally inspired to learn the guitar from listening to Kiss. His devotion, and lessons with people like Joe Satriani, to guitar excellence earned Skolnick a spot in the thrash metal band Testament. Interestingly enough, it was while with this band he discovered the music of Miles Davis. Moving to New York to pursue jazz Skolnick earned a degree from the New School, where he studied with Richie Beirach, George Garzone, and Hal Galper. In the process of school and studies Skolnick formed the Alex Skolnick Trio, which is featured on this release.
As a composer Skolnick has worked outside the trio format including composing pieces for the EA video game "Hot Wheels Turbo Racing," a big band jazz composition for USA Network's 2002 Westminster Dog Show, and music for the MTV series "Makin The Band." He has also worked in concert with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Skolnick's trio includes drummer Matt Zebroski and bassist Nathan Peck. Zebroski began his musical studies on piano and clarinet before eventually switching to the drums. He has worked with a number of musicians including Roberta Piket and teaches at the Litchfield Jazz Camp. Peck, an Ohio native, was raised in a jazz influenced household and has toured with Maynard Ferguson's Bip Bop Nouveau Big Band as well as with other artists like Joel Frahm, Bonnie Tyler, Allison Miller, Roy Campbell, Mark Murphy and Maria Muldaur.
The music on Veritas, Skolnick's fourth release as a leader, shows influences from his time as a rocker. "Bollywood Jam" opens the flood gates. His more laid-back jazz contemplative side is heard on the title track. There are times when Skolnick lets his prodigious chops fly, as on "Song Of The Open Road" and "99/09," but these times are always measured and controlled, preferring musical statement over technical pyrotechniques. On those tunes Skolnick is more deliberate and calculated when lesser musicians would fill all the holes with wasted noise. His best work appears on "Path Of Least Resistance." All those years of jazz study pay off in one of his most articulate and well-conceived jazz solos ever. "Reflections" is another highlight, this one being a lovely ballad.
Zebroski and Peck are wonderfully intuitive bandmates. They know how to accompany when the magic is best left in the guitar lead, as on "Fade To Black," yet can drive and push the music forward when needed as on "99/09" where they shift into brief moments of swing against the rockish timed sections. On this last tune they each show remarkable solo chops in addition to their ensemble work. While this is a solid release that again aptly demonstrates Skolnick's exceptional musical abilities as he continues to carve a path separate from his guitar shreader past, it's a bit on the subdued and inconspicuous side. The safe path, for an artist and ensemble of exceptionally high musical abilities as these musicians demonstrate, doesn't always serve.