A day in the life of Manhattan-based jazz/fusion guitarist Oz Noy, specifically Sept. 30, 2019, involved a trek south for what would be a dream for most other instrumental musicians. For him, though, it was part of an everyday routine.
“I hope you can hear me,” Noy says by phone, “because I’m on a train to Baltimore. I’m rehearsing there with Dennis Chambers and Jimmy Haslip for my upcoming overseas tour.”
Chambers is one of the most explosive and versatile drummers in the world, with credits from Parliament/Funkadelic and Santana to Steely Dan and iconic fusion guitarist John McLaughlin; Haslip is the fretted and fretless bass maestro best-known for long tenures with the Yellowjackets and the late fusion guitar catalyst Allan Holdsworth. Noy’s trio tour abroad with them ran from Oct. 2-24, encompassing the United Kingdom, Italy, Bulgaria, Austria, Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Armenia, and Russia.
“I’ve gotten used to working with musicians who play on a very high level,” says Noy. “Spoiled, perhaps.”
Upon his return to the United States, Noy started rehearsals with 35-year-old French bassist Hadrien Feraud (whose credits include McLaughlin, Gino Vannelli, and Jean-Luc Ponty) and fusion fixture Dave Weckl, the first-call recording session master perhaps best-known as keyboardist Chick Corea’s drummer across multiple decades. That trio appears for two shows on Nov. 5 at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton. The 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. sets will be the first U.S. tour stops for Noy upon his return.
“It’ll be the first time I’ve ever been to that club,” he says, “but I’ve heard great things about it.”
A renowned blues venue for years, the Funky Biscuit has enjoyed a welcome foray into jazz/fusion since this summer, hosting the Aristocrats in August and drummer Billy Cobham’s band in September. Both shows drew an ample amount of musicians, and Noy, Feraud and Weckl will prove no exception.
“Hadrien Feraud has prodigious, Jaco Pastorius-like chops,” says Mark Braun, a West Palm Beach-based bassist and guitarist with the area band One Track Mind. “Dave Weckl made his name supplying the rhythmic acumen and virtuosity required to play the music of Chick Corea, Mike Stern and others. Oz Noy, though certainly not lacking technique, might be considered a ‘feel’ player by comparison, but his creative use of effects pedals is renowned.”
Born in Israel, Noy moved to the U.S. in 1996 after climbing the ladder as an open-minded professional in his native country between his early teens and mid-20s. His feel for music is reflected in his long-standing motto, “It’s jazz, it just doesn’t sound like it,” which echoes the mindsets of both influential electric guitar predecessors (Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa) and current peers (Jimmy Herring, Mike Keneally).
The young Noy quickly drew interest from a dazzling roster of accompanists, making his name in New York City as a studio musician equally versed in jazz, rock, funk, blues, and R&B. Throw in his teaching prowess, with multiple instructional DVDs and lessons both in person and online, and Noy was able to make a living while also making a name for himself.
The first official release under his name, Oz Live, was recorded at the Bitter End in New York City in 2002, and featured bandmates with combined credits including Miles Davis, Steely Dan and Late Night With David Letterman in bassists Will Lee, James Genus and Reggie Washington and drummers Keith Carlock and Anton Fig. Amid its serpentining Noy originals, true to form, were diverse covers by jazz piano institution Thelonious Monk and New Orleans founding funk fathers The Meters.
Noy’s studio efforts HA! (2005) and Fuzzy (2007) included more far-reaching original material, creative interpretations of Monk chestnuts, and covers of pop hits from Prince to Bonnie Raitt. They also added to Noy’s growing list of guest artists via appearances by guitarist Mike Stern, bassist Jimmy Johnson, keyboardists George Whitty and Jim Beard, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
“I’d never played with any of the musicians I’ve recorded with in the U.S. while I still lived in Israel,” Noy says. “But they were all my heroes while I was growing up, along with The Beatles. They were the act that first got me interested in music, and the artists who got me into jazz were keyboardists like Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett.”
Weckl and Feraud’s studio paths have crossed with Noy’s since he relocated to the U.S., and Weckl (named “One of the 25 best drummers of all-time” by Modern Drummer magazine) is prominent on the guitarist’s latest gem, this year’s Booga Looga Loo. The album also features drummers Colaiuta and Steve Ferrone, and bassists Lee, Genus, and John Patitucci.
“I’ve done several tours with Dave,” Noy says. “And I’ve played with Hadrien before, but I’m looking forward to this tour, which will be my first one with him.”
Lest anyone think that Noy can’t play jazz that actually does sound like it, he even assembles a largely acoustic quartet for New York City shows. The personnel is often rounded out by musicians like drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts (a longtime member of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ band), Genus (who possesses the rare versatility of playing electric or acoustic upright basses with equal aplomb), and pianist Dave Kikoski (Roy Haynes, Mingus Big Band).
“Those gigs tend to take place at places like the 55 Bar,” Noy says, “which is more of a traditional jazz room in Greenwich Village. And we lean on a lot of jazz standards there.”
For the Funky Biscuit shows, Noy expects an electric evening of interaction with the ever-percolating technique and touch of Weckl and the creative harmonies of Feraud, all centering mostly on newer material.
“We’ll play quite a bit of ‘Booga Looga Loo,’” Noy says, “and also a few from my next album. It’s already recorded, and will be kind of a volume two of that record, with some of the same personnel and some new faces.”
Having emerged as a recording artist in the 21st century, Noy has become one of the fresh faces of fusion, a term initially used in jazz when electric instruments and rock elements were incorporated by trumpeter Miles Davis (1926-1991) in the late 1960s. Like many current performers influenced by Davis — and his many former bandmates mentioned here (McLaughlin, Corea, Jarrett, Cobham, Stern) — Noy carries the torch of unashamedly being influenced by music of all genres, realizing that jazz has always been more about pursuit than perceived purity.
Perhaps his motto should read, “It’s jazz, whether it sounds like it or not.”
See the Oz Noy Trio at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton ($20-$40, 561-395-2929).