Israel-born, Manhattan-based jazz/fusion guitarist Oz Noy returned from an overseas tour in late October, having played across Europe, the Czech Republic and Russia in a trio with renowned band mates in bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Dennis Chambers.
Noy’s first dates upon his return to the United States were 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. trio shows Nov. 5 at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, with the equally impressive rhythm section of French bassist Hadrien Feraud and iconic drummer Dave Weckl. Performing to a capacity crowd during the early set, Noy’s trio put on a clinic in improvisation and interaction within material that fused jazz, rock, blues and funk.
“This is the last tour of the year for me,” Noy said, “so we’re going to play some tunes from the new CD. This is ‘Chocolate Soufflé.’”
The bluesy shuffle from the guitarist’s superb 2019 release, Booga Looga Loo, went in several directions. The 35-year-old Feraud — a generation younger than his bandmates — switched from his thumb-heavy, claw-hammer playing style during the bulk of the song to play an impressive finger-style solo that included upper-register notes and harmonics. Weckl’s cymbal work, fills and accents were top-shelf, and Noy played a solo that built to an eventual crescendo of blazing runs before he settled back into a behind-the-beat pattern to state the melody leading to the coda.
“Anybody know who Thelonious Monk is?” he asked afterward. “I usually do a composition of his on each record, and we’re going to play a medley of his tunes.”
What followed was the mind-altering highlight of the set. Noy’s unaccompanied intro showcased most of his arsenal of effects, including delay, wah-wah pedal and loops before another of his banner solos. The medley eventually included the late iconic, enigmatic jazz pianist’s “Bemsha Swing,” from Booga Looga Loo, plus the recognizable “Straight, No Chaser,” all in a stew spiced with the guitarist’s tranquil, Hammond organ-sounding tones, ominous chords approximating horror movie themes, marauding snippets that sounded like Edgar Winter’s instrumental rock hit “Frankenstein,” and nimble, flight-of-the-bumblebee runs. Feraud made another statement with his late solo, and Weckl proved inimitable via his touch; shifts into double and half-time cadences, and a flurried solo over the vamp of Noy and Feraud to close a banner all-around performance.
Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys hit, “God Only Knows” (also from Booga Looga Loo), downshifted the proceedings. Noy played the familiar vocal melody, while Weckl changed from drumsticks to brushes for subtlety, and Feraud provided the essential harmony to allow the guitarist to embellish the ballad’s chordal beauty à la masterful jazz/fusion guitarist Bill Frisell.
The closing piece was a mashup of James Brown’s funk classic, “I Feel Good.” Noy and Feraud each played with rhythmic aplomb, and Weckl’s late, unaccompanied solo brought down the house. The drummer switched the snares on and off his multiple snare drums throughout without missing a beat; placed a small splash cymbal on his primary snare at one point for effect, used all his cymbals to the fullest via crashes and accents on the bells and edges, and muted his tom-toms with one drum stick while playing them with the other. Perhaps the only drawback was that his extended break didn’t allow for the encore the hyped crowd expected, and loudly asked for.
“Thank you, but we have to go,” Noy said. “We have another show soon, and we’ll be outside to sign CDs and say hello beforehand.”
With Noy’s stated motto of “It’s jazz, it just doesn’t sound like it,” the chameleonic guitarist’s unique mixture of rock, blues, funk and jazz wasn’t surprising. The standout show’s only drawback, in clocking in at only an hour and five minutes, was its brevity.