Wired Guitarist was proud to cover the maiden Axes & Anchors voyage last week. Awesome shows from the likes of Marty Friedman, workshops from virtuosos like Bumblefoot, all capped off with Carnival’s world-class amenities. Over the coming week, we’ll be bringing you world-class coverage of the guitars, the shred, and the experience of Axes & Anchors.

In-depth one-on-one with Marty Friedman, breakdown of the Act of Defiance (ex-Megadeth, Shadows Fall, and Scar The Martyr members) writing and recording process, insights from Bumblefoot’s clinic, and more will be featured on this website.

Attendees of the cruise got to take advantage of daily drink specials at stocked bars all over the ship, seeing Yngwvie rip the strings off his guitar one by one before throwing it behind is back, a 5-star dining experience nightly, cruising the beaches of the Bahamas and Key West with the artists, Zakk Wylde playing the pool stage, and more!

For a taste of what’s to come, here’s my experience with Alex Skolnick’s workshop and his delightful trio he tours as a part of now:

I ran into Alex the first day on the ship by the pool bar. I said hi, talked a bit about gear, and told him I was looking forward to hearing his trio. I knew them for their free jazz arrangement of The Trooper and thought it would be a good time. Man, was I underselling the situation. I planned on just seeing them once but a friend and I wandered into the dimly lit lounge after dinner and found them playing there early in the cruise. Matt Zebroski on a small kit, Nathan Peck on a standup bass, and Alex on a semi-hollowbody, playing a mesmerizing song from their most recent album Veritas, the kind of expertly executed jazz you’d expect from any New York nightlife staple. We sat down, and they promptly delved into a Latin Jazz/Bluegrass crossover song, followed by amazing arrangements of “Dream On” and “Still Loving You.” Easily a highlight of the trip so far, I was even more excited to see his clinic the following morning.

I got up bright and early, grabbed some salmon benedict and POG from the restaurant, and made my way to the pool stage for the 10:00 AM clinic. Alex started out with some jazz playing, and immediately began answering fan questions about his scat singing. “Well, it’s hugely important to be able to play what you sing. It’s the best way to develop your ear. Start off simply, even just major or pentatonic licks. Limit yourself to playing only what you can sing, and you’ll grow from there.” The clinic quickly took a turn to his more “metal” career with Testament, and his solo album. “It’s a lot of fun. There’s a time and place for everything. But, there was this time where I got really tired of playing in E minor. We put out great music in E minor, really good shredding, but I had to just stop everything and play jazz. Nothing but jazz for years. I remember in the ‘80s I saw a special on public television of Miles Davis with John Scofield, and thinking ‘That’s jazz?!’ It was amazing but not what I expected. I had to actually go back and listen to the original jazz to sort of rectify that fusion in my mind.” Another fan asked him how he approached the crossover between Jazz and Metal in his compositions. “Well, it’s all just musical knowledge and passion. It has crossover to everything. The more you can learn the better. There don’t have to be hard lines. Non-metal can be thematically heavy, and metal can have intelligent melodies.”

When I saw his trio the second time, it was their “metal” set. Larger kit, stand up and electric bass, and Alex was making more use of his signature ESP. They played many of the same songs (in the much larger concert hall, now absent of Yngwie’s stacks as he had performed the previous night), before embarking on a “Rock history” tribute set featuring impromptu renditions of “Foxy Lady,” “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” “Eruption,” and more. The omnipresent Rudy Sarzo even came up for a rendition of “Mr. Crowley.” His thoughts on melody became quickly apparent. “There is a lot of great music out there. A lot of different kinds. But when I’m arranging something as a jazz piece, I need a really great, wide, singable melody. That’s what makes a song catchy and a composition interesting.” They completely energized the crowd and left me speechless for a second time.

The Alex Skolnick Trio will be releasing new music soon! Be on the lookout for it, as well as for more articles from Wired Guitarist. Our coverage of the Axes & Anchors cruise is a blast and this anecdote is only a small portion of the amazing event.

This article was written by Kyle Karich, our editor located in Florida.

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