Oz Noy Trio/The Bitter End/Dec. 17, 2018
At age 10 in his native Israel, Oz Noy learned to play Israeli music and Beatles songs on his guitar, gradually exploring and expanding his repertoire to bebop jazz, blues, pop and heavy metal. By his mid-teens, he was playing alongside top Israeli musicians, and by his mid-20s he was one of the most established studio guitarists in his country. Noy emigrated to New York in 1996 and has frequently led all-star bands at the Bitter End, the 55 Bar and Iridium. Each performance has featured different collaborators, but often they have been among New York’s top session musicians, including Will Lee, Anton Fig and Bernard Purdie. Noy has released eight studio albums and six instructional videos; his most recent album, Ozone Squeeze, a collaboration with keyboardist/vocalist Rai Thistlethwayte and drummer Darren Stanley, was released on Sept. 15, 2017.
Noy plays in a trio or quartet most Monday nights at the Bitter End. Tonight, his accompanists were bassist Fima Ephron and drummer Andrew Atkinson. Playing an all-instrumental set, Noy started many songs with Wes Montgomery-styled smooth jazz melodies which then broke into angular Thelonious Monk-like twists. Improvisational jams abounded, and performing without a keyboardist on this night meant that Noy had to do more heavy lifting than usual. Noy employed various technical schools in his solos, coloring his virtuosic approaches with artistry along with proficiency. Snatches of rhythm and blues, funk, blues and rock grooves gave the fabric additional textures. As such, the Oz Noy Trio provided a night of fusion jazz geared to listeners who normally would not attend a jazz concert.
Billy Joel/Madison Square Garden/Dec. 19, 2018
Long associated with Long Island, N.Y., Billy Joel actually was born in The Bronx; his family moved to Oyster Bay when he was a 1-year-old. There, Joel reluctantly began piano lessons at an early age at his mother’s insistence; he preferred boxing, but left the sport after getting a broken nose. After watching the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, Joel decided to pursue a career in music. Joel played in several short-lived bands, including the Echoes, the Lost Souls, the Hassles and Attila, before starting a successful solo career in 1971. In total, Joel has won six Grammy Awards and sold more than 150 million records worldwide. Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. His 12th and most recent album, River of Dreams, was released in 1993.
Billy Joel tonight headlined his 105th concert at Madison Square Garden, this time backed by musical director/keyboardist Dave Rosenthal, guitarists Mike Delguidice and Tommy Byrnes, bassist Andy Cichon, drummer Chuck Burgi, percussionist Crystal Taliefero, and a horn section comprised of Taliefero, Mark Rivera, and Carl Fischer. Performing less than a week before Christmas, the concert included several snippets of seemingly impromptu Christmas songs as well as guest appearances by two daughters, 32-year-old Alexa Ray Joel and 3-year-old Della Rose Joel (her dad called it her “show biz debut”). On a puzzling note, though, Joel also had Delguidice sing “Nessun dorma,” a tenor aria from Giacomo Puccini‘s opera Turandot. With no new music to promote, Joel performed big hits and a few deep cuts from all but his first album, surprisingly omitting his biggest hit, “Just the Way You Are.” Throughout the evening, he glided deftly from soft rock piano ballads to the more rocking songs, introducing almost every song with a short anecdote. Joel was a master at the piano throughout the main set, adding a harmonica for “Piano Man” and switching to guitar briefly during the encore. While his singing grew weaker gradually during the two-hour set, the very vocal audience filled the slack and out-blasted him on the last few songs. Joel will continue his monthly concerts in the arena indefinitely because he is an ace entertainer who well pleases his fans.
Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co./Otto’s Shrunken Head/Dec. 20, 2018
Vocalist/lead guitarist Michael McMahon came to New York City from Pittsburgh, Pa., and met bassist/banjo player Garth Powell when both had blond spiky hair and played in local punk bands. Aging out of that phase, they played together in the 1980s alt-country band Last Roundup. That band split after one 1987 album, and McMahon and Powell then formed the hillbilly/rockabilly revival band Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. The trio also features Michigan-born rhythm guitarist Jon Hammer, and performs at Otto’s Shrunken Head monthly, usually on the last Thursday of each month.
Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co., also known by its acronym, SIT & Die Co., claims to plays solely “ballads, boogies & blues,” but that marketable yet vague catch-phrase allows the band to interpret vintage country-western, honky tonk, rockabilly and even swing and old-timey rhythm and blues. At Otto’s Shrunken Head tonight for the band’s monthly two-hour show, the three musicians wore matching western wear, decorated the staging with 1950s-styled set pieces, placed baskets of tortilla chips on all tables, played up the cornball country comedy, and performed killer roots music on three acoustic instruments. Powell’s bass provided sharp rhythm and bounce without a drummer’s help, McMahon captured an authentic guitar twang and hillbilly vocals, and Hammer gently offered the fuller, thicker resonation, while all three harmonized on choruses. Old covers and original songs sounded like they derived from old 10-inch 78 rpm records. On this night, the band also invited onto the stage Stella Rose Saint Clair to sing several cowgirl songs. The stage act was more than a concert, it was a sparklingly entertaining cabaret act that would do well off-Broadway.
Walter Lure & the Waldos/The Bowery Electric/Dec. 20, 2018
Walter Lure, born in Queens and raised in Long Island, started guitar lessons at age 12 but stopped until he played in cover bands while in college in the late 1960s. His first exposure to the downtown music scene in New York City was in the glam punk Demonsin the 1970s. Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan left the New York Dolls in 1975, formed the Heartbreakers with Richard Hell, who had just left Television, and recruited Lure to join the band. The Heartbreakers ruled the New York club circuit and toured England with the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned, but achieving only underground success in New York City and England, the Heartbreakers split in 1978. Lure formed two short-lived bands, the Hurricanes and the Heroes, before forming the Waldos in 1986. Along the way, he played in many Heartbreakers reunions until Thunders died in 1991.In 1993, the Waldos released a debut album, Rent Party. Since 1995 the Waldos has consisted of Lure, guitarist Tak “Takto” Nakai, bassist Takanori “EZ” Ichiuji, and drummer Joe Rizzo. The Waldos, now rechristened Walter Lure & the Waldos, released Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo, the band’s first album in 25 years, on Aug. 17, 2018. The lead track, “Crazy Kids,” will be featured in the forthcoming full-length film Thunders: Room 37, which dramatizes the final days of Johnny Thunders.
Walter Lure & the Waldos perform in New York City about once every two months, and usually at the Bowery Electric. The set tonight featured newer songs from Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo as well as many of the songs Lure wrote or co-wrote for the Heartbreakers. The set started with three songs from the current album, beginning with “Crazy Kids,” a song Lure wrote in the 1990s and then forgot. The new songs savored the flavor of the old Heartbreakers vibe, but were also tighter, faster and more polished than anything from the Johnny Thunders generation. The show closed, as Waldos concerts usually do, with a pair of rocking songs that recalled the Heartbreakers’ sordid reputation, “Too Much Junkie Business” and Dee Dee Ramone‘s “Chinese Rocks.” Walter Lure & the Waldos brilliantly accomplished what few bands can do; the band solidly and authentically preserved the sound and legacy of late 20th century New York rock ‘n’ roll.