Oz Noy's Funking Awesome Comping Tips

New York City funk/jazz master Oz Noy knows comping.
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New York City funk/jazz master Oz Noy knows comping. He knows a thing or two about soloing as well. It stands to reason that he’s also pretty good at thinking about both concepts at once. These examples were culled from Noy’s improvisation on a mid-tempo funk groove with a straight eighth-note rhythm, as heard in his cover of “I Feel Good” from his latest album, Who Gives a Funk, but they can be played at any tempo and with a swung eighth-note feel as well. Also, some of the chords are “rootless voicings,” with the root ostensibly being supplied by the bass. —Vinnie DeMasi

“Whenever I solo, especially in a trio context, I like to conceptualize my improvisations as a musical interaction where I’m comping behind myself,” says Noy. “I’ll play a line and then answer it with a chordal lick in a call-and-response dialogue fashion. When I sound the chords, I’ll almost always throw on a DLS Effects RotoSIM Leslie speaker simulator to give it a Hammond organ vibe. If you ever see me play live, you’ll notice I have my foot on the pedal for most of the show, frequently switching it on and off.

Ex. 1 is an example of a classic question-and-answer phrase over a straight-ahead I-IV blues or funk vamp in the key of D. If I want to modulate outside the key center however, then playing a chord to set up the harmonic background first is a great way to lead the listener’s ear and make it sound more musical. I like modulating up or down a half-step during solos, since I feel it provides interesting melodic and harmonic tension. Ex. 2 is an example of how I could set up a brief jump to Eb when soloing in D. By sounding the Ebmaj9 chord first, the move to the new key center seems less jarring and more melodic.

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“This same strategy holds true when playing altered chords and scales. The D7#9 groove at the beginning of Ex. 3 is textbook funk, but it opens the door to creating lines with ‘out’ notes such as the augmented fifth [spelled enharmonically as Bb] and augmented ninth [F]. This also works for the G7#5 in the 3rd bar which prepares your ear for the D# note.

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“Another approach I like to use is based on something you’ll often hear in Miles Davis’ music, where he’ll play a simple diatonic line but have the ensemble answer with more sophisticated harmony. Ex. 4 demonstrates my version of this idea, and even though I’m providing both the melodic figure and the chordal accompaniment, it’s done in such a way that it sounds like a musical dialogue between two distinct voices.

“One final concept I use when either soloing or comping is to think about note clusters within the context of a scale. Ex. 5a is a fourth position D Mixolydian mode. I’m taking small groups of notes from the scale to create Ex. 5b. The construct is not so much based on chords per se, but rather on rhythms and melodic shapes within the scale’s framework.”

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