If you still haven’t heard of Oz Noy by now, you’re
just not paying attention. The New York-based, Israeli guitarist
has been steadily releasing remarkable recordings of bluesand
bop-inflected, pedal-effected instrumentals for almost a
decade. Thanks to universal admiration for his jaw-dropping
skills, Noy has no trouble rounding up rhythm sections comprising
the best bassists and drummers in the world (Will Lee
and Vinnie Colaiuta come to mind), as well holding his own
with guest guitarists such as Mike Stern, Eric Johnson, Steve
Lukather, and Warren Haynes.
For 2011’s Twisted Blues, Vol. 1, Noy’s compositions and covers
revolved around blues-based forms. This year’s Twisted Blues,
Vol. 2 [Abstract Logix] wraps up the experiment with more shuffles,
as well as modern blues rhythms based on funk feels. Oz
sat down before a gig in Nashville that saw him going toe-totoe
with guest guitarist Brent Mason to talk about twisting the
blues, and what we can learn from bass players.
Did hearing Robben Ford and Scott Henderson when you were
growing up inspire your mixture of blues and bebop?
That’s exactly what it did. I wanted to play like them, but I
went to some teachers who said, “If you want to play like that,
first you have to study bebop.” I had been trying to sound like
them, but it didn’t sound right until I got the right foundation.
Why did you record a second volume of Twisted Blues?
I knew I wanted to do volume two while I was doing volume
one. I already had half the material for the second one written
by the time I finished the first. I look at it as forms, and I had
more blues forms I wanted to try than I could fit on one record.
I felt I had to write something over some grooves Chris Layton
had played for me. They ended up on “Come Let Me Make Your
Love Come Down,” “Blue Ball Blues,” and “Slow Grease.” Those
grooves inspired me to do Vol. 2. Now I am done [laughs].
Are any of the tracks on Twisted Blues, Vol. 2 left over from
No. They are all newly recorded. The only song that was
supposed to be on Vol. 1 was “EJ’s Blues” [with Eric Johnson
guesting]. We didn’t have room on the first record, and I didn’t
actually record it until this one.
What makes a tune “blues” enough to be on these two records?
None of these tunes are real blues, but I think their
format is more blues-oriented than the other stuff I have
done. Still, harmonically, I do whatever I want. I wasn’t just
going for shuffles—I was also inspired by when Albert and
Freddie King, or Albert Collins did their funk stuff in the ’70s.
On “Freedom Jazz Dance,” I was going for an Albert King funk
thing, but in my own way. I don’t think of it as fusion—I think
of it more as R&B or funky blues.
Why did you revisit the songs “Get Down”
and “Just Groove Me” on Vol. 2?
Because they were on the live record
[2007’s Oz Live], and I didn’t feel I had good
enough recordings of them. Plus, we had
been playing them a lot since then, and we
had new angles on them.
Where did you do the record?
I did everything at the Carriage House in
Connecticut, except for the track with Eric
Johnson, which we did at his studio.
Did you play everything live with the
I always play everything live. I think of it
like a jazz record—no overdubs! If there are
any fixes to be done, I can do it with edits.
We do between five and ten takes a song,
and we play with a click track so that we
can cut in parts easily.
You have said you haven’t been totally
happy with your recorded sound.
I don’t think anyone is. Twisted Blues, Vol.
1 is when I started to get comfortable. I had
my amps in a room where I could keep the
door open so I could feel the air. These are
the first records where I have felt comfortable.
Was there more of your Custom Shop
Fender Telecaster on this record?
Yes. It was about half Tele and half Strat.
There were just more tunes that the Telecaster
was right for—I’m not sure why. When
I go on a tour where I can’t take the Tele,
and I have to play a song I recorded with it,
it just feels weird to me.
Which Fender Stratocasters did you use?
Two ’68 Custom Shop models. One is red
with a maple neck, and the other is sunburst
with a rosewood fretboard. The maple one
is tuned a half-step down, and strung with
D’Addario .012s. The sunburst is in standard
tuning with a .011 set, but with a .012
substituted for the high E string.
You were playing a Les Paul live for a minute.
Do you still play it?
I still play it, but I haven’t recorded with
it yet. I tried to get into it, but it is such a
different animal [laughs].
What amps did you use on the record?
For Vol. 1, I just had my Marshall and my
Fender Bandmaster. For this record, I also
had my Two-Rock. The Marshall is a 1973
head tweaked by Ziv Nagari. It goes through
a Bad Cat cabinet loaded with four Celestion
Greenbacks. The 1966 or 1967 Fender Bandmaster—
also modified by Ziv—goes into a
Bad Cat 2x12 with a pair of Eminence Tone
Spotters that I really like. The Two-Rock
started out as a Gain Master 100 model, but
they made it special for me, and it took us
two years to get it right. We eventually had
to put an old-stock transformer in it to give it
enough headroom—even though it was 100
watts! Now, it sounds really good. The cabinet
is loaded with two 65-watt Celestions.
We recorded all three amps at once. I
always start out recording three, so I can
choose the best, but it is rare that I end up
using only one amp in the mix. Each amp has
its own frequency range, and, sometimes, it works to add them together—though sometimes
How do you split the signal between the
The Two-Rock is dry—meaning no delay—
and I split the other two amps using my
delays, but it is not wet-dry-wet. I have some
dry signal on the other two amps, as well. I
also used a really nice box made for me by
XAct Tone Solutions that lets me split the
signal into up to five amps.
How did you mic the amps?
I used a Shure SM57 and a Royer R-121 up
close, with a Neumann U87 out in the room.
What pedals were you using for Vol. 2?
Whatever I use live is what I use in the
studio. I have two pedalboards. One has a
Vox King Wah, a TC Electronic tuner, an Xotic
AC Booster, an Ibanez TS808 with the Analog
Man Brown Mod, a Dunlop Octavio, an E.W.S.
Fuzzy Drive, an MXR Phase 90, a Monster
Effects Swamp Thang, a Sweet Sound Ultra
Vibe, and a DLS RotoSIM—all powered by
a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power. The other pedalboard
has the delays—an Electro-Harmonix
Memory Man, a Line 6 M9, a Boss DM2 Delay,
and two Boss DD-7 Digital Delays.
What picks do you use?
I use the Dunlop Tortex 2mm
Saxophonist Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz
Dance” does not lie well under the fingers for
a guitarist. How did you master that song for
your version on the album?
A friend of mine figured it out on a 4-string
bass. He showed it to me, and it made perfect
sense, so I play it almost entirely on the
third, fourth, and fifth strings—as if I were
playing bass. The main difficulty with these
kinds of lines is the right-hand picking, so I
just find a way that works—using hammerons
With your tunes, how do you decide when
it is time to veer off from straight blues into a
bebop lick, or take the solo outside?
I don’t think about it like that. I just think
about developing certain kinds of melodies.
What is next?
I have some ideas, but I don’t have specific
plans. I have been thinking of recording
some straight-ahead stuff, because I have
been playing with Jeff “Tain” Watts and John
Patitucci at the 55 Bar in New York. I have
been developing this acoustic jazz thing
for a while. I don’t usually get tense before
playing with people, but with those guys, I
get a little stressed out [laughs]. It’s out of
my comfort zone. It’s playing standards—
or tunes like standards—with a more swinging
feel. I’m searching for my own sound
within the straight-ahead format. Even with
my tunes, I don’t just play them—I always
have to find my own approach.