Oz Noy: No Longer Making Choices
AAJ: Speaking of gear a little bit, which guitars and amps did you use to record the new album?
ON: I used one guitar, I have a '56 relic Strat, a custom shop '56 relic. I had the original bridge pick-up wound hotter, had it wound all the way, to give it a fatter sound, and I have bigger frets on it. That's the guitar I've been using. I also have a '73, or '72 I forget, Marshall head that I plug into a 4x12 Bad Cat cabinet. I also have a Fender Bandmaster, '66 or '67, head that I plug into a 2x12 Bad Cat cab. Both of those amps, and most of my rig, is modified and tweaked by Ziv Nagari who does all of my amp work. He does a great job, just a fantastic tech, I really love working with him on my gear.
Oz Noy with Mike Stern and James Genus during the Ha! recording sessions
AAJ: On the tunes "Seven" and "Bug Out," you use a loop pedal to get some really cool sounds. It seems like a loop pedal is a rare thing in the jazz tradition, what inspired you to bring that sound into your playing?
ON: Now, I think more and more jazz musicians are using loops. John Scofieldand Bill Frisell have been using them a lot. I got this pedal a few years ago and just started using it. In a trio setting, I have to try different things in order to cover a wider sonic ground, add different parts to the sound or just create different colors in the song. With my effects, whatever I do in the studio I want to be able to do live, and vice versa.
AAJ: Even though you're a modern player as far as style and sound are concerned, there is still a strong influence of bebop heard in your playing. How much did you study bebop when you were learning to play jazz?
ON: I studied it very deeply and I played bebop for many years. I don't think of bebop and modern jazz as being different, to me they're just jazz. To give you an example, I used to play out of the Omnibook a lot. I also used to play with my thumb for a few years like Wes Montgomery. I used to be able to play whole Wes albums note for note from memory, so I was pretty deep into that kind of thing. At a certain point I wanted to avoid sounded like one particular person so I took all of my influences and started to make a big mess out of it [
AAJ: Speaking of your right hand, you mentioned that you used to use your thumb, do you still use your thumb, or a pick, or fingers, or a combination of these approaches?
ON: I just use a pick. I never really pay attention to my right hand. People ask about that sort of thing, but I think it's a waste of time to pay attention to it. I have to be aware of what I'm playing, but at a certain point everybody's physical makeup is different so it's different for every person. As long as you coordinate the left and right hands, and things sound good, that's all that really matters.
ON: It's like anywhere but there's no other place like New York as far as the level of jazz here. It can't be compared to anywhere else. There is a strong jazz scene in Israel and there was less competition for gigs. So when I was growing up I didn't have to be at such a high level to play jazz gigs. I was able to do a lot of gigs when I was developing, which was great. I don't know how it would be growing up in New York, but in Israel it was great to be able to play as I was learning more about the music. I was playing in clubs since the age of 13 or so. It wasn't about being the best guy in town, as long as I could hang and do my thing I was able to work, which was a great experience.
AAJ: You're living in New York now and I'm wondering how you find the jazz scene there. It seems that jazz all across the US is hitting a bit of a slow period, but New York has always been able to stay pretty secure with the health of the jazz scene there. How do you find the scene there today?
ON: New York is a sad situation right now. I moved here in '96, which wasn't a good time compared to the '80s and '70s from what I've heard, but from '96 to now it just keeps going down. Places are closing, there are less and less places to play, the scene just seems to be shrinking all around. It's not like there aren't places to play, but it's become less and less and less. It's not just jazz, there's a lot less rock, and a lot less music work in general. I hope this is going to change and it'll get back to where it used to be 20 and 30 years ago.
AAJ: Getting back to your album a little bit, you featured guitarist Steve Lukather the record and I'm wondering what is it about Steve's playing that made you decide to include him on the new album?
ON: I was always a big fan of his playing and songwriting and a couple of years ago, Will Lee, my bassist, introduced me to him. After that I would go see him when I was in L.A. and we'd hang a bit. So, when I was doing the record I wasn't planning on having another guitarist on the album. I wrote the songs "120 Heartbeat" and "Schizophrenic" and thought, "man, if I could get someone like Lukather to play on these tracks it'd be great." His sound would be perfect for these songs. I called him and he did it, it worked out great. I didn't have him in mind when I wrote those tracks, but after I wrote them I thought it would be great to have another color on these tunes and he was the perfect guy for the job.