Oz Noy Trio's Funk Blues Flux Triumphs At Ronnie Scott's


For the first five minutes at least, there must have been many in tonight's audience in agreement with New-Yorker Oz Noy's quote in the programme notes that his "music is jazz, it just doesn't sound like it". The vibes were decidedly heavy and bluesy. Flung over a solid funk groove from electric bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Keith Carlock came a fidgety guitar lick from Noy that flipped between spacious and reggae-like and the sort of howl you'd expect from Jimi Hendrix.

An inspired ballad arrangement of 'Better Get It in Your Soul' saw Noy, unplugged from all his axe effects and gizmos, delve into his raw and raunchy blues side. Naturally, the Mingus tune also proved a perfect platform for Haslip to solo, and some poignant noodling from the session veteran beautifully complimented Noy's soft, graceful chords, his fluid lines dripping across a shuffle so laid-back you could nap on it.


The band followed this with a breezy new funk tune, 'Zig Zag', before pandemonium abruptly broke and an unannounced piece had Carlock and Haslip nailed to a knotty time signature and Noy intensely picking out what sounded like a 1970s cop theme. Even at his most out there, sonically and technically, Noy's playing remained lyrical and groove-driven through the show. His deploying of nervy, gymnastic licks, recurring loops or choppy wah guitar over already complex rhythm-section parts made for some real edge-of-your-seat interplay and soloing from all. A robust take on The Meters' classic 'Sissy Strut' built-up great tension, a polyrhythmic coup in which the tune's familiar melody was dragged in and out of irregular rhythms, clashing erratically against a simpler, syncopated pattern from Carlock in four.

With the exception of Noy's lone performance of his ballad 'Twice in a While', too abstract and shrill for tonight's crowd, more incredible playing from this tireless trio carried over into a second set. They cruised through more high-energy blues, tight-knit funk and loose, lazy swing, before splitting with a spirited sprint through James Brown's 'I Feel Good (I Got You)'. With Haslip holding down some serious low-end and Noy up in the high registers replicating all the busy brass from the original cut, Carlock drove the whole thing home, erupting into an explosive drum solo, the applause for which lasted into the opening bars of an encore, Miles' 'Freedom Jazz Dance'.

– Mark Youll

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