Snapdragon was my introduction to Oz Noy, the Israeli virtuoso guitar player and it is such a hot album. Although I’ve heard of him and he’s played with literally dozens of musicians I know. This is his 10th solo album, it’s the first I’ve gave a thorough listen and the floodgates have opened. It’s definitely going to make me dig deep into his catalogue. Snapdragon easily was one of my top albums of 2020 but I ran out of time to cover it full last years and am making up for it here. Oz plays a mix of jazz, funk, rock, blues, and r&b. On top of it all, the album features a score of fantastic artist sit ins, and I’ll cover them on each song recap.
“Among those stoking the fires of the rhythm section are Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Will Lee, James Genus, and John Patitiucci, while Noy trades improvised solos and notated melodies with saxophonist Chris Potter, keyboardists David Kikoski and Jason Lindner, trumpeter John Sneider, guitarist Adam Rogers, and the recently deceased trumpet Wallace Roney, whose subtly blues-tinged solo glides over the nimble rhythmic modulations of “Outer Look.” – Bandcamp
Looni Tooni is insane (yes I said that) and is worth purchasing the album just for this cut. It starts with a banging drum intro from Dennis Chambers with some heavy organ and blistering trumpet from John Sneider. Of course Will Lee on bass is ripping lines along with Chambers. The tune is infectiously funky. As expected Oz conducts a guitar master class solo early on and the rhythm section just motors on behind him. Honestly, you can’t even imagine the spatial coverage of this solo. Sneider comes back after a bit with a masterful solo of his own (gotta check out his albums too). The pace is a non-stop race from start to finish.
Tired But Wired features the rhythm section of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and will Lee with a thumping opening line. It’s more of a bump and go tune than the opener with Oz again lightning-like on his solo which is followed by a Chris Potter soprano solo that flows back to the head. The end splash is a full sound blast
Outer Look hasa super jazzy opening and features a terrific trumpet line from the late Wallace Roney. Vinnie Colaiuta is back on the kit and John Patitucci is on bass. Roney is the focal point on Outer Look and naturally Oz takes a deeper solo midway. Honestly, Oz’s speed blows me away – the precision and clarity is beyond belief. Outer Look is fine swinging tune – the refrain reminds me of a West Side Story song.
She’s Not There is an old Zombies tune from the 1960s immediately recognizable to anyone of a certain age. Chambers and Lee are back for the rhythm section. Oz takes the lead vocal line and I can hear the lyrics in my head. Brian Charrette on Hammond B3 also kills his part here. I love the way Oz is bending the tune a little bit but keeping with the overall theme. It feels so much like a retro jazz tune.
Boom, Boo, Boom is the only tune so far with a live video and its real fun to watch the mastery and interplay of Oz, Dave Weckl on drums, James Genus on bass, Charette on organ joined by David Kikoski on the Wurlitzer and Danny Sadownick on congas. Boom, Boo, Boom really swings and it’s tune is well named with a bouncing three note repeat throughout. Charette and Oz play the main theme simultaneously and the band is firing on all cylinders. David Kikoski grooves on a solo early on and then Oz takes us on another racetrack clip.
Snapdragon starts with a horn line reminiscent of some great bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and then rips into a guitar lead from Oz that reminds me of ZZ Top! Of course, it’s a unique tune by itself with great combination of the horn section playing off the guitar and organ. Oz’s rapid jams are both complex and cohesive. Brian Charette has a groovin’ organ solo here as well. This one is perhaps the most hard driving tune on the album.
Evidence features Dave Weckl on drums and James Genus on bass. This cover of Thelonius Monk’s tune is a slow paced and more dreamy with Oz banging that axe hard. Evidence has Oz on the lead throughout and it’s a great show of how broad a sound he can project.
Groovin Grant is an homage to Grant Green even if in Oz’s own words “it doesn’t sound like it.” The tune really swings and has some excellent balance between Oz and Charette on organ. It also features Adam Rogers on guitar. It’s definitely another heater with some great guitar soloing midway and that swirling organ in the background.
Bemsha Swing (Alt Take) is another Monk cover that starts with some distorted, spacy guitar work. Jason Lindner is featured on synth and makes the tune more jamtronica than any other on the album. The Patitucci-Colaiuta rhythm behind his solos take a near reggae approach. Oz shreds again on this jam in a mind blowing sequence midway. It’s a great way to close out the album.
Oz Noy – guitar
Dennis Chambers – drums
Dave Weckl – drums
Vinnie Colaiuta – drums
Will Lee – bass
James Genus – bass
John Patitucci – bass
Brian Charette – organ, Hammond B3
Daniel Sadownick – percussion
David Kikoski – piano
Adam Rogers – guitar
John Snieder – trumpet
Wallace Roney – trumpet
Jason Lindner – synthesizer
Anne Drummond – flute
Chris Potter – saxophone, soprano