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Oz Noy: Ha!

John Kelman By

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Guitarist Oz Noy may not yet be a household name, but there are plenty of musicians on the New York scene, where he relocated from Israel in '96, who recognize him for the innovator he is—including bassist/multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona, drummer Jeff "Tain Watts, and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. Noy's working trio regularly includes bassists Will Lee and James Genus, and drummers Watts, Keith Carlock, and Anton Fig. If one can be judged by the company one keeps, then Noy is clearly someone to keep an eye on.

Sometimes it's interesting to hear artists come to a similar place from different directions. Noy sometimes bears a resemblance to the jammier side of John Scofield. But whereas Scofield comes from a stronger jazz sensibility, Noy references a strong rock background—although he also demonstrates some knowledge of jazz vernacular. In recent years Scofield has incorporated an array of effects into his sound, but they always feel like supplements. With Noy, the effects are an integral part of his approach. While one can always picture Scofield with a pure, unadulterated tone, it's more difficult to distinguish Noy the guitarist from Noy the textural sonic painter.

But the common ground that Scofield, in his jam band mode, and Noy share is an unerring sense of groove, placed in a position of prominence and priority. On Ha!, Noy's second release and first studio effort, the funk is deep and dirty. So deep, in fact, that on half of the ten tracks Noy uses two drummers—Fig and Carlock—to create a thick, bottom-heavy rhythm section sound.

As fundamental and crucial as the rhythm section is, it's Noy who dominates, with a style that's more Jeff Beck than Joe Pass. Even when Noy tackles Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk, his heavily compressed and overdriven tone make it a grittier blues than, one suspects, Monk had ever envisioned. And Noy's blues roots are clear—something he shares with guitarist Scott Henderson; but by being less influenced by the legato style of Holdsworth, and more by Hendrix, Noy clearly sounds more like a rocker than a jazzer.

Still, as much as Noy's roots come from the rock world, and his approach is generally extroverted and unfettered, he's equally capable of gentle persuasion and the occasional hint that his harmonic view is indeed richer than some of his more obvious influences. While there's a certain delicacy to his version of "I Can't Make You Love Me, he periodically throws in surprising dissonances that allude to his musical breadth.

Ha! is hard to classify as a jazz record—even a fusion one—but it's the kind that serves as a suitable entry point for jam band fans looking to find their way into a jazzier sensibility from improvisational rockers like the Allman Brothers. And it introduces Noy as a dynamic player whose name will inarguably show up on more radar screens in the future.

Visit Oz Noy on the web.


Track Listing: Chillin'; Sit Tight; Haa!; Say What?!; What Love Is; Hey You; Downside Up; Blue Monk; Hit Me; I Can't Make You Love Me

Personnel: Oz Noy (guitar, guitar loops), Anton Fig (drums on all but

Title: Ha! | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Magnatude Records

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