Guitarist Oz Noy faced an uphill battle on his new CD Fuzzy, simply because it follows his intense 2006 release Oz Live. But if the prevailing notion was that Noy’s second studio effort would wilt by comparison, it gets proven wrong by mid-disc. Fuzzy starts slowly, but the pre-heat leads to a boil through the guitarist’s interaction with some of his live partners—bassists James Genus and Will Lee, and drummers Keith Carlock, Anton Fig and Vinnie Colaiuta.
It’s difficult to match the attitude of a live album. “Which Way Is Up?” opens by trying too hard through the overkill of two bassists (Genus and Lee) and drummers (Carlock and Fig). The seven-minute “Cosmic Background” follows up by going midtempo, and Noy’s quotes of Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover” hint that the disc’s remainder might be on autopilot.
Yet the following eight tracks effectively, and often furiously, showcase Noy’s other influences. The title track mixes Stevie Ray Vaughan’s bluesy tone with the ryhthmic lock of Genus and Carlock. The aptly titled “EpistroFunk” features Colaiuta and bassist Jimmy Johnson, who push Noy to a Hendrix-like fervor. “Intensity” also lives up to its name, as Lee, Fig and keyboardist Jim Beard inspire Noy to a Scott Henderson-worthy performance.
The guitarist saves some of his most unique ideas for two brilliant cover arrangements. The Prince ballad “Sometimes It Snows in April” is a gorgeous exercise in tone, as Noy adds loops and electric sitar. Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” further displays the musical intangible that can’t be taught—creativity. Noy squeaks, squawks and feeds off of Johnson and Colaiuta in a reading worthy of the Monk classic. Noy may have arrived in NYC from Israel 12 years ago, but Fuzzy focuses his arrival as a major fusion player.