I had heard his strange tones on various YouTube clips over the years, but never knew what to expect from this unusual and provocative guitarist in a live situation. Rather than try to make this a review, I thought it would be more like a brotherly retrospect from one guitarist on another. Oz Noy is an interesting fellow to say the least. Like Hendrix’s arrival on the scene, he is like an invader who comes into our sphere and disrupts the balance of things and all that has come before.
His gear seems pretty normal. A 1965 Bandmaster head through a vintage Matchless 2x12 with ceramic magnet speakers. A stock Vox wah and a host of rotary simulators and Uni-Vibe-like phasers. A germanium transistor fuzz pedal, a ring modulator and a couple overdrives finishes out his mid-sized pedal board. His guitar looked like a relatively stock 1966 big-head three tone burst Strat—probably a custom shop model with a stock tremolo. I didn’t interview the cat for details, so for all you Oz Noy freaks out there please forgive any incorrect observations I may have made here. All of this doesn’t really matter because what he does with this setup is what makes him so unusual in his approach.
Jeff Beck, Hendrix, and Frank Zappa immediately come to mind. Also the Stevie Ray perfected neck pickup aggression is apparent. These seem to be at least some of the influences that Oz picked up on when developing his style. From what I have read, he is of Israeli descent and God knows how he arrived at this eclectic style of playing prog-rock funk. He is not a kid. He has been doing this for quite some time. He also does something else that very few shredders do. He writes all of arrangements out note for note. This allowed his very competent sidemen, Anton Fig on drums, and James Genus on bass to follow his intricate and challenging heads and arrangement figures while still allowing them to interject their own statements and have freedom to blow. And blow they did. Upside down, backwards, sideways, you name it, Noy’s compositions are a fun-zone, white-knuckle ride for the listener. We chose to move away from being in direct line with his speaker cabinet because the high-mids coming off those vintage style speakers powered by two 6L6s will take your head off.
Using rotary pedals set to different depths and speed allows Noy to do organ- sounding punches and inflections that add extra tonal colors not usually heard in a guitar power trio ensemble. Are these new sounds? Not particularly. Just about every sound Oz used in his set I have used at one time or another either live or in the studio, but he seems to choose just the right spots to dish up these various surprises.
I had spent the earlier part of the day listening to the live at Ronnie Scott’s, Jeck Beck videos on YouTube just to have another perspective on weird Strat playing. Jeff is the master of this and we have come to expect this from Beck over the years. But this Oz Noy character is writing pieces of music that only someone like Zappa could have appreciated at face value. This is some intricate stuff! Will the girls like it? Only the hip ones. There were a few musos in the audience like myself who were giggling and pointing at his incredible command over his instrument, but for someone to go where no man has gone before like this cat, his celebrity will be long-building and long lasting . . . long after we are all gone.
I am an old school blues bunny and when someone stretches out then brings it home to the blues gets my vote every time. Wes Montgomery was a master at this. Later, George Benson, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Jay Graydon and Steve Lukather would do the same. It’s sort of an American tradition. Oz Noy can do it, but he sort of toys with you. Just when he is about to come home, he takes another spin and another and another, each time leaving you in either another mode or an entirely new key. It almost like he doesn’t want to do the okie doke, same 'ol blues stuff we have all become used to since the swing era. Is that wrong? By no means! Like I said right off the bat, this talented guitarist is breaking new ground. I admire him for that. His chops are ridiculous. He does it so effortlessly that it almost seems like he is thinking of other things going on inside the room or in his imagination while he is blowing that stuff. Lots of gray matter for sure.
As for me, well I came away stimulated and entertained. The band was great. That’s really what it’s all about . . . inspiration and escape. But in the words of Dorothy, and this humble writer’s opinion, “There’s no place like home.”
—Kenny Lee Lewis