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Oz Noy/Ugonna Okegwo/Ray Marchica - Riverside (Outside In Music)

19 January 2022

Guitarist Oz Noy is best known for bluesy fusion records. For Riverside, however, he’s teamed up with his pals Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Ray Marchica (drums) for a set of standards derived from sets the trio played in Riverside Park during lockdown. Stripping his muscular tone down to what sounds like axe-to-amp, Noy swings hard on Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are,” Steve Allen’s “This Could Be the Start of Something Big* and Richard Rodgers’ “Have You Met Miss Jones,” balancing out the tunes’ melodies with tasteful filigree. Buoyed by his bandmates, he lays down solos with more feel than flash, sounding more interested in stretching the parameters of the tune than striding atop it. Noy also excels on “Out of Nowhere,” from the pen of “Body and Soul” composer Johnny Green, taking advantage of the 6/8 time signature to play out and set up a strong solo from Okegwo. The band takes on three tunes from the book of bebop pioneer Charlie Parker, masterfully blazing through “Donna Lee,” swinging gracefully on “Anthropology,” and paying tribute to jazz’s blues core on “Billie’s Bounce.” Leaping forward a couple of decades from the rest of the repertoire, the group ends the record with a frisky version of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” returning the song to its soul jazz roots. Clearly inspired both by his virtuoso bandmates and by stepping outside of what’s usually expected of him, Noy sounds like he’s having a ball on Riverside.