What’s the Deal with Oz Noy?

SMG: What I like about your playing is that you have a jazz sensibility, yet you add blues and play outside.  Was this something you consciously wanted to bring to your soloing, or is it natural to your playing style?

Oz: It’s kind of both.  When I grew up playing I started to learn jazz at a really young age.  I started playing jazz, rock, and blues, and all that stuff at the same time.  I was educated that it was important to learn jazz.  I remember the first time I heard Holdsworth, Scott Henderson, and Pat Metheny and those guys.  I was shocked.  “I want to play like that!” I went to some teachers and they said, “If you want to play more modern jazz or fusion, you have to learn the basics of jazz.” So I got really deep into bebop.  So I played a lot of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Monk, and Wes Montgomery.  There was a couple of years where I played with my thumb like Wes with a jazz guitar.

At the same time I grew up in the 80’s so I liked all the shredder stuff.  Then I got into Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, so I started to get into that at the same time.  I always liked the sound of a Strat more than the sound of a hollow body.  I never got connected to that even when I had a hollow body and I played bebop.  I still didn’t like it really.  Once I started to get into Stevie Ray Vaughan, I played all the records and transcribing stuff.  I realized that in order to sound like him, you have to go backwards to the roots.  He was already developing from Hendrix, Albert King, and B.B. King.  So I started to go back and check out those guys.

My background had the basic roots of the musicians that can help you get to your own thing.  When I moved to New York, for the first year or two, I use to still play my jazz guitar and I use to sound like any other guy.  Then I sold it and I was left with my Strat.  That was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I always liked the sound of a Strat better anyhow.  Anything I needed to play was on that guitar.  I can use the same sounds that I use on rock or pop gigs.  There’s no difference.  So I wasn’t thinking, “Let me do jazz and mix Hendrix, and B.B. King.” I was thinking, “What do I like?” I don’t really care if it’s not in the style.  I’m just going to do it because it’s how I feel.

I think of my records as jazz music.  We’re just not swinging all the time.  That’s the only difference.  The rest is improvisation like I’m playing a standard.  When I write tunes I think about it like I’m writing a standard.

SMG: Are you modeling your originals off standards?

Oz: Yeah.  On the last record, “Jelly Blue.” There’s a tune off Fuzzy called “EpistroFunk” that’s based on “Epistrophy” by Thelonious Monk.  Also “Evidence” by Thelonious Monk that I did in three.  On the Ha! record there’s a tune called “Down Side Up” which is based on “Rhythm Changes.” I always write stuff modeling structure.

SMG: Then it evolves away from the original idea.

Oz: Yeah.  There’s a Wes Montgomery song called “Twisted Blues.”  I’ve been playing and loving that tune for years.  I’ve been trying to write something over that and I’m kind of succeeding.  On the next record is going to be my version of that.  It’s not going to sound like “Twisted Blues” but it’s going to be modeled on that.

SMG: What do you listen to for your own pleasure?

Oz: I like songs.  Even stupid songs.  Good songwriting I really like.

SMG: Do you listen to Bon Jovi?

Oz: (Laughing)  I love Bon Jovi!   I can listen to Bon Jovi.  I like the hits.  In terms of songwriting, I love Rickie Lee JonesJohn Mayer is good and of course Joni Mitchell.  In terms of jazz, I’ll listen to some good Keith Jarrett or some Herbie or Chick or something like that.  I listen to records that are coming out now just to see what’s out.  Chris Potter came out with a new record.  There’s a bunch of different guitar players that are coming out with stuff; Kurt Rosenwinkel, Adam Rogers, and people like that.

There’s a bunch of new guys that are killer.  This guy Mike Moreno is fantastic.  Nir Felder is another guy who’s really excellent.  Pete Bernstein, Jonathan Kreisberg; there’s a bunch of really good guys.  They have more of a jazz sound but they’re amazing.  And you know Wayne Krantz of course.  He’s a really important guy.

SMG: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Oz: Hopefully playing better and making records.

SMG: You want to compose for the orchestra at The Hollywood Bowl don’t you?

Oz: (Laughing)  If the money is right I’ll do it.  I have kind of a weird plan.  I want to keep making records.  My next project is I want to do those two blues records because I know I have a lot to say with that.  I kind of feel that the whole funk thing that I’ve done over the last couple of years…  I’m not over, but I kind of said enough in that way.  I want to do some of the Twisted Blues stuff because I got a bunch of stuff that I can explore.  Eventually I’m going to start doing some jazz records where I play standards, or my way of playing standards.  That’s what I want to do to begin with, but it may turn into a whole other thing.

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