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Oz Noy: Twisted Blues: Volume 1

Ian Patterson By

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That guitarist Oz Noy was voted "Best Newcomer" by Guitar Player Magazine in 2008 underlines how curiously under the radar he seems to fly. By then, Noy had already played with New York's finest musicians in the dozen preceding years since arriving from Israel, and had cut three impressive CDs as leader. His fourth release, Schizophrenic (Magnitude Records, 2009) portrayed a multiple musical personality, one embracing jazz, rock, blues and funk in a potent, bewitching cocktail, veering this way and—when you least expect it—that. Noy raises his own bar a notch here, leaning more overtly towards the blues, though a twisted blues which smokes and burns from gnarly yet incendiary fuel gathered from bebop, groove-based rock, and the sophisticated harmonics of modern jazz.

Noy unleashes boggling runs like explosive shards on the title track, though it's essentially a groove number driven by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee. Jerry Z. and John Medeski add organ to the mix, which is largely textural. "Oh Really?" is a New Orleans-inspired blues, with pianist Allen Toussaint bringing some N'awlins authenticity to this upbeat number. Noy is a masterful composer and interpreter of ballads, and "You are the State" features plenty of the slow burning, shimmering guitar lines that illuminated BAAN's excellent As You Like (Jazz Eyes, 2011). Another slower number, "Two Centers" burns with the intensity of a psychedelic Jimi Hendrix blues, an impression enhanced by the use of loops.

The spirit of Texas blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan is revived on "Whole Tone Blues." Noy does an exceptional Vaughan, and the presence of the late guitarist's former members, drummer Chris Layton and organist Reese Wynams, makes this smoking tribute almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing. It doesn't get much funkier than The Meters' 1969 hit, "Cissy Strut," and this version is a stunner. Drummer Anton Fig takes on the Zigaboo Modeliste role and brings deep groove to this head-bobber to beat them all. Noy's dazzling runs and sheer unpredictability on "Steroids" conjure a delightfully volatile hybrid of guitarists Scott Henderson and John Scofield; Scofield seems to be an important reference for Noy, particularly when in funkier vein.

Noy has found fertile ground for exploration in pianist Thelonious Monk's tunes before, both on record and in live performance, and he succeeds in completely rewiring "Light Blue" and "Trinkle Tinkle." A dreamy, quasi-Hawaiian mood colors the former, with Colaiuta tip-toeing on brushes and Wynams' organ simmering gently in the background. The latter is an enjoyable romp, with Noy expressing mighty individualistic chops, which is just about the only thing in common with the original.

This may be the recording which finally elevates Noy's name into the first tier of jazz—or whatever—guitarists. As a talent, he's already there. And if for some perverse reason this doesn't quite do it, then Twisted Blues Volume 2 should nail it.

Track Listing: Twisted Blues; Oh Really; You are the State; Whole Tone Blues; Cissy Strut; Light Blue; Steroids; Two Centers; Trinkle Tinkle.

Personnel: Oz Noy: guitar (1-9), loops (5, 8); Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (1, 2, 7, 8); Will Lee: bass (1, 2, 5, 7, 8), synthesizer-bass (1); Jerry Z.: organ (1, 2, 7, 8); John Medeski: organ (1, 5); Allen Toussaint: piano (2); Eric Johnson: guitar (3); Anton Fig: drums (3, 5); Roscoe Beck: bass (3, 4, 6, 9); Reese Wynams: organ (3, 4, 6); Ralph MacDonald: tamburin (5); Chris Layton: drums (4, 6, 9).

Title: Twisted Blues: Volume 1 | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Abstract Logix

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