Q&A with New York-based virtuoso guitarist Oz Noy, intoxicating blend of Jazz, Funk, Rock, Blues, and R&B

"I think music (or any form of art really) is for people to enjoy so as long as the audience enjoy your art you’ve done your job. If you make them happy or make them think you did your part, the rest is out of your control."

Oz Noy: Let The Boogaloo Groove Roll

Constantly seeking untapped musical terrain, New York-based guitarist and composer Oz Noy steps onto fertile ground with his new album, Snapdragon (2020, Abstract Logix). The spry rhythmic wallop that characterized his previous album, the backbeat-driven Booga Looga Loo (2019), remains in full force -- only now welded to an open, bop-inflected chromaticism fostering a more dynamic, searching improvisational energy. Intricately winding unison melody lines spiral out across fatback rhythms capes, expertly realized by an impressive cast of soloists and supporting musicians. Among those stoking the fires of the rhythm section are Dennis Chambers, Will Lee, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, James Genus, and John Patitiucci, while Noy trades improvised solos and notated melodies with saxophonist Chris Potter, keyboardists David Kikoski and Jason Lindner, trumpeter John Sneider, guitarist Adam Rogers, and Jazz Trumpet Virtuoso  Wallace Rooney, in what is likely his final recording before succumbing to complications of the Coronavirus this spring.                                                (Oz Noy / Photo by Cari Paige)

Noy’s signature vision, as both a player and composer, is the beating heart of Snapdragon. The themes include six original compositions, alongside a surprising, evocative reading of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and two Thelonious Monk pieces. Throughout, Noy’s playing is alternately tender and treacherous, moving from open-hearted, nearly vocal melodic statements to the sort of ferociously off-kilter, explosive soloing that has made him a favorite amongst connoisseurs of guitarists and improvised music at large. In Noy’s universe, odd intervallic leaps, unresolved dissonances, and radiating slabs of electric distortion are heightened and enlivened by nimble funk. The resulting sound is simultaneously accessible and refreshing -- an entirely modern refraction of the glorious tradition of greasy organ combos and gritty two-horn soul-jazz. Born in Israel, Oz started his professional career at the age of 13 playing jazz, blues, pop and rock music. Oz Noy has performed, toured and recorded with Harry Belafonte, Cyndi Lauper, Nile Rogers, John Patitucci, Bill Evans, The Gil Evan Orchestra, Warren Hayes, The Allman Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Eric Johnson, Mike Stern, John Abercrombie, Steve Lukather, Angelique Kidjo, Henry Butler, Paul Shaffer, Sting, Allison Krauss, among others.

Interview by Michael Limnios                        Oz Noy, Interview 2012 @ blues.gr

Special Thanks: Oz Noy & Michelle Gutenstein (MAD Ink PR) 

How has the Blues, Jazz and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I don’t really think in those terms, I listen to a lot of different music and I have my favorites music or songs that I connect more than others but in general I try not to think in terms on styles of music, to me it’s all just good songs or compositions or a good guitar solo on whatever the style of music will be. It’s all just music. I love Blue, jazz & Rock all equally the same. I studies jazz but always listened to everything so… I would say that my favorite thing in the world is good songs.

How do you describe "Snapdragon" sound and music philosophy?

I was going for that kind of late 60’s early 70’s boogaloo/ when jazz started to go electric and mix with funk & R&B (Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith, Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard where some of the records I was listening too), that’s some of my favorite area in jazz so that’s what inspired me to write this album. It’s actually the vol.2 of my last album Booga Looga Loo, it was the same concepts! Actually, some of the songs was recorded at the same sessions for that album.               (Oz Noy / Photo by Yossi Zwecker)

"I think there is great music that is been done today in all genres. Great composers & musicians. I got no problem with what’s going on today. I enjoy most of it very much! BUT having said that… I would say on a personal lever that I miss doing more organic sounding record with guys going to a studio and all playing together in the same room, that doesn’t happen as often as I would like it to be."

What touched you from Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and Thelonious Monk's music?

I always loved and played Monk music, he’s compositions fit my guitar playing real well and I like the fact that you can pretty much put any type of grove on a most Monk compositions and it will still work, he’s writing doesn’t limit you to a style of music, it’s just good tunes!

The zombies song I knew for a while but a few years ago I did a few gigs with Christopher Cross in NYC, we were doing this collaboration with a few NYC musicians and just played our versions of some cool cover songs, Christopher brought this song and had a great arrangement of it , it got stacked in my mind and at some point I started to play it instrumentally and eventually recorded it.

Why do you think that New York music scene continues to generate such a devoted following?

I’m not sure I have the answer for that, I do think that in terms of the jazz sim there is still nothing like it, it’s just the best in the world. I guess one reason is that a lot of great jazz musicians still live in NY and you can see them play live pretty regularly in town. NY is such a live city and live music and interaction with people is such a big part of it so that probably why it’s still got a big effect on the music sim in general… I think?!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past?

I don’t! I think there is great music that is been done today in all genres. Great composers & musicians. I got no problem with what’s going on today. I enjoy most of it very much! BUT having said that… I would say on a personal lever that I miss doing more organic sounding record with guys going to a studio and all playing together in the same room, that doesn’t happen as often as I would like it to be.

Also, pop songwriting has been dumbed down a lot so I hope that will change at some point and go back to quality song writing. And I would be happy for rock and rock guitar to come back.

"I listen to a lot of different music and I have my favorites music or songs that I connect more than others but in general I try not to think in terms on styles of music, to me it’s all just good songs or compositions or a good guitar solo on whatever the style of music will be. It’s all just music. I love Blue, jazz & Rock all equally the same. I studies jazz but always listened to everything so… I would say that my favorite thing in the world is good songs." (Oz Noy / Photo by Cari Paige)

What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I hope they’ll be able to figure out the digital domain and streaming services royalties situation cause what’s happening right now make no sense at all for the artists! I think a lot of artist won’t be able to create cause there is just not enough money coming back … how many vanity records can artist do? That will eventually end unless they will find a reasonable financial solution for artists. I don’t believe in the crowed funding platform… I think people are starting to get tired of it.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My dad told me” don’t worry, it will be ok, things always work out the end"

What is the impact of music (and especial of Jazz) on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I think music (or any form of art really) is for people to enjoy so as long as the audience enjoy your art you’ve done your job. If you make them happy or make them think you did your part, the rest is out of your control.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I’ve learned to be percent and let thing happen, also learn to listen and be open to music or anything is life. Also, I’ve learned that anything you love is worth doing.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to do to the 50’s and see Charlie Parker Play, or the 60’s and see Miles or Coltrane play or 70’s and see Hendrix play or 80’s and see SRV play etc...

Oz Noy - Home

Oz Noy / Photo by Yossi Zwecker

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