(All Album Reviews by Howlin Rev)
Oz Noy, an Israeli guitarist that has been playing professionally, believe it or not, since the age of 13! Almost a decade ago, Oz Noy made the move to New York and has since played with other artists such as Chris Botti, Jeff “Tain” Watts, even Harry Belafonte, to name a few. Noy has also done soundtrack work for several HBO shows, including ‘Auto Focus’ and ‘Queer As Folk’.
Ha! (PR-0506 Magnatude Records- ‘Magna Carta‘) is Oz Noys’ first studio release and his second overall. Some of the key players helping out are Anton Fig and Will Lee, both from Paul Shaffers’ CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman. I’ve been a fan of these guys for many years and it is great to hear them in this type setting. When watching the Late Show, you only get to hear these guys playing the intros and endings of a song. Here, there are no commercial breaks and Anton Fig, sometimes along with Keith Carlock, double up on the skins for several tracks resulting in some serious drummage! George Whitty from the Brecker Brothers Band is on organ and keys and even Mike Stern (Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, etc) guests on a track. Stern lays high praise on Oz saying “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen“. That’s a huge compliment considering the company Stern has kept!
Those of you who like guitar driven, contemporary jazz fusion, and sometimes even with a “Papa Got a Brand New Bag“ attitude, would probably be glad to find this album. Right off, I would say if you’re a fan of Jeff Becks’ last few releases, then Ha! would be right up your alley. A review from Guitar One magazine says “Imagine Jeff Beck meets John Scofield in a James Brown Band”. I would say imagine Robert Cray meets Darryl Steurmer and on several tracks there is that certain “Godfather of Funk“ feeling. If you’re a fan of that big, fat strat tone, this album is going to slay you!
These tracks are rather lengthy at times with three songs over eight minutes, two over seven and none shorter than five minutes. That could be boring, except that the arrangements take very unexpected twists in styles and moods and keeps your interest. Ha! is most definitely a showcase for Noys’ chops. Oz got chops! But it’s more than just chops and leads. Each of these songs take you places. One might start off very cheery and playful, then breakdown into something altogether different. A tune may start with that James Brown sound, then go into a Frippish soundscape or it might start reminding you of Jeff Beck and end up reminding you of Holdsworth or Bill Frisell.
Don’t think though, that these are mere imitations of your favorite guitar heroes. Ha! stands on it’s own as a solid recording, especially considering it’s Noys’ first studio outing. This all instrumental album is chocked full of fluid runs, sweet snags, infectious grooves and great imagination. Put it on and all at once you, too, might find that you are now in the company of a wizard wielding a mighty strat, in the land of Oz! Come on! You didn’t think I was going to let that go, did you? Recommended!