Planetary Coalition (Artist Share, 2014)
Guitarist Alex Skolnick has jumped into the world music arena with a fabulous album titled Alex Skolnick’s Planetary Coalition, a global music project. Indeed, the collection of pieces crosses numerous musical borders. Skolnick has gathered an impressive list of musicians representing various nations and traditional genres.
“A seriously cross-cultural acoustic album has long been on my bucket list,” says Skolnick. “I wanted to pay tribute to the many diverse sounds from around the world that I loved.”
The opening piece, ‘Island in the Sky’, has a south Asian feel, combining excellent performances on acoustic jazz guitar played by Skolnick and santoor (an Indian zither, struck with two hammers) played by Max ZT, supported by the creative electric bass of Moto Fukushima and global percussion performed by Luke Notary.
‘Salto’ takes you to South America with Latin guitar and Argentine indigenous percussion. Skolnick’s lead guitar is joined by various musicians from Argentine band Raza Trunka, who have a background in heavy metal and folk music: Jose Luis Terzaghi, Juan Casanovas and Fausto Nascimbene.
A well-known figure in the world music scene, Kiran Ahluwahlia, appears on the Indian-inspired ‘Passage to Pranavana.’ Here we find outstanding Indian fusion with Skolnick on guitar, Kiran on vocals, Nitin Mitta on tabla, Max ZT on santoor, and Rachel Golub on violin.
The sounds of the Middle East define ‘Taksim Square’ featuring a stellar kanun (a stringed instrument similar in look to a zither with a total of 72-75 grouped strings) performance by Turkish musician Tamer Pinarbasi and a heavier Arabic rock section with Skolnick on steel guitar, Panagiotis Andreou on bass, Engin Gunaydin on drums, and Shane Shanahan on darbuka.
On ‘Playa la Ropa’ we find three guitarists who come from the world of heavy metal performing dazzling acoustic guitar music: famed duo Rodrigo y Gabriela along with Skolnick.
As the title indicates, ‘Django Tango’ combines passionate tango with Gypsy jazz. The lineup here includes Skolnick together with Dario Boente on piano, Rachel Golub on violin, Pablo Aslan on bass and Raif Hyseni on accordion.
On ‘Old World Dance’ Skolnick visits Eastern Europe. He’s joined by Vasko Dukovski on clarinet, Raif Hyseni on accordion, Rachel Golub on violin, Panagiotis Andreou on bass, and Engin Gunaydin on drums.
Skolnick turns to West Africa in ‘Alla la K’e’ with a mesmerizing duo performance with vocalist and kora virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko.
The African direction continues with ‘Back to the Land’. It’s a more upbeat piece with stellar bass. This is a truly hybrid piece, mixing West African, Indian and jazz elements. The lineup includes Skolnick on guitar, Yacouba Sissoko on vocals and kora, Max ZT on santoor, Moto Fukushima on bass, and Luke Notary on percussion.
On to Cuba and Latin jazz on ‘Mojito.’ Here we find Skolnick with Jennifer Martinez on piano, José Armando Gola on bass and master drummer Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernández.
‘Rock of Ramallah’ is the most rock oriented piece Alex Skolnick on fiery electric guitars, Adnan Joubran on oud and percussion; and Shane Shanahan on riq (North African tambourine).
Next comes ‘Negev Desert Sunset’ with Skolnick on Middle Eastern-inspired guitar and Israeli percussionist Gadi Seri providing a belly dance beat.
‘Return of the Yi People’ introduces the music of China with virtuoso pipa (a short-necked Chinese lute ) player Yihan Chen and Skolnick on guitar.
The last piece on the album is the flamenco-inspired ‘Sleeping Gypsy’ featuring Rachel Golub on violin; Max ZT on santoor; Moto Fukushima on bass; and Luke Notary on percussion.
“Covering so much territory was irresistible and the tunes came together very organically,” adds Skolnick.
Alex Skolnick has done splendid job on Planetary Coalition, delivering memorable pan-global collaborations with top international world music talent.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.