Israel born Oz Noy has built a musical universe blending the influences of funk, jazz, and blues into an exquisite discography of Stratocaster coolness. He has a knack for building intricate compositions that groove, burn, and percolate. His music is brainy but always soulful. The funk is strong in his music, but his solos weave lines born from blues and bebop. One will hear snatches of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix, and before you know it, Charlie Parker lines are ripping across the fretboard.
Noy’s latest release called Twisted Blues Volume 1 (read our review here) is a fine example of this stylistic marriage. It’s a buffet of flavorful musical ingredients that bypasses the typical Chicago based fare, in favor of the blues based stylings of Thelonius Monk, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and splashes of New Orleans. Guitar Muse caught up with Noy to find out how he does what he does.
How can blues based players add more jazz in their soloing?
I always tell this to my students and there’s no way around it. In order to play anything that will sound like jazz and sound right, you have to study the language of jazz, which is bebop. The deeper you get into bebop, the more you can add to your playing. If you get deep into blues and then as deep as you can into bebop, I think you’re in the best shape you can be. Those are the roots to all modern music in my opinion.
Is it more about phrasing, scales, chords, or working though standards?
It’s about everything. It’s not going to hurt to learn the theory behind it. There’s no such thing as jazz theory. There’s just theory of music, so it’s good to know what you’re doing even if you’re a blues player. That will give you some options; then if you want to sound more jazz, just by knowing theory, you can use more exotic scales. In order to really get another angle you have to study another angle.
What do you say to someone who just wants to play jazzier lines over blues changes?
What I play comes from bebop. I studied bebop pretty deeply for many years. I don’t know if everybody can do that, but it comes from there. Whatever you can grab from there, whether it’s studying some Charlie Parker or Wes Montgomery tunes. Grant Green is great because he’s got a lot of blues and jazz in his playing.
If you don’t want to get too deep into it, which is kind of impossible, you have to try to find the jazz guys who play very clear. Somebody like Grant Green, Sonny Rollins, or Sonny Stitt – there’s a bazillion people like that. Then try to learn some of their stuff, but then you have to understand what they’re playing. You have to know the theory behind it.
I notice you’ll play a very bluesy Hendrix or SRV inspired phrase going from a I to the IV chord, then morph that into a long bebop line. What are you thinking about during those transitions?
I don’t think about it like that. I just play. I just think about all of it as music. It’s just a part of my vocabulary. I have this blues sound or Hendrix sound, but then I play whatever else I want. I have these other options that I can go for.
I have a lot of students that come to me and they try to do that. Some of them sound ok, some sound not so good, but the problem that all of them have is that it never sits right when they play. Their phrases never really fit. The reason for that is because if you studied the language of blues, then you’ll have the blues phrasing, that’ll fit ok. If you want to add jazz into it then you have to learn the language of jazz. That’s kind of the glue for the music for me. That’s why I think when I play the jazz stuff, and I go to the blues stuff, I don’t know the language of blues as well as I know the language of jazz. That’s what I tell people. I can show them the theory behind it, but what’s really going to help is the fact that you’re going to have to learn the language.
I hear what you’re saying. I’ve seen people who don’t really have an ear for jazz trying to inject that into their blues and it doesn’t sound quite right.
Yeah, but the thing is you don’t have to do it. If you really want to do it, you have to study the language.
They want the instant hip jazz lick crib notes. (Laughing)
(Laughing) They should just find that one jazz lick that works and play it all the time.
Find out more about Oz Noy here.