LIVE in The Age of COVID: Oz Noy Trio @ Live at The Falcon, Marlboro 7/25/2020
It’s been a given for some months that live music was going to be a thing of the past until a viable vaccine for COVID was implemented. All anybody who wanted to be in close quarters for any reason had to do was look at the picture of a smiling, unmasked Herman Cain at tRump’s Tulsa rally and then simply do the math. So, as a result, there would be no clubs, no concerts, no festivals, nada, for the duration. Simply couldn’t be done. Just don’t say that shit to Tony DeFalco.
The impresario of Live at The Falcon has spent years building an oasis of incredible sounds & food in the middle of one of those towns on 9W that’s so small, you’ll miss it if you blink – and by then, you’ll be in Newburgh or Poughkeepsie, so who cares? The Falcon’s nightclub complex parallels a beautiful, waterfall-powered mini-gorge, and a byzantine set of decks line that side of the facility. Up until now, they’ve been used for pre-show meals and a place to smoke between sets. But thanks to well-placed sun shades, disposable paper menus, properly distanced tables of various sizes, and a staff that’s masked up to the eyeballs, DeFalco has created a great outdoor music space that says we don’t HAVE to live without live music and great grub – at least, we don’t as long as the weather holds.
It’s not just local acts that are back on the beat, either: Sax wizard & former UAlbany adjunct professor Don Byron had already rocked the house the weekend before I got there, while NYC vocalist KJ Denhart and Hudson Valley legends Joe Lovano and Jeff Lederer have gigs lined up for later in August. On this night, I was at the Falcon for another chance to see Oz Noy – an Israeli-born, NYC-based guitarist who’s been blowing my mind for several years now. He’d played the Falcon earlier this year and Rudy Lu had raved about the show, so there was no way either of us was going to miss a second bite at that apple, especially when Noy’s rhythm section would be made up of bassist James Genus and uber-drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts!
Noy was warming up by himself when I joined Rudy in the “balcony” section of the deck, and I would have been more than happy if that was all Oz did on the evening. The sun was behind a towering set of trees, already bringing down the heat of the day, and the landscape around the twin waterfalls was lush & plentiful as Noy ran scales & riffs that had as much to do with Jimi Hendrix & John Scofield as they did with Kenny Burrell & Wes Montgomery. The plan had been for two sets, but plans change at the Falcon, and that was cool here. The rolling & tumbling warm-ups of Noy and Tain told us one set would give us all we needed.
Things started out slow with “All the Things You Are”, a classic ballad Noy had turned inside out back in 2011 with a band called BANN – a rampant European outfit that included wild animals like Seamus Blake, Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum. The arrangement was slightly simpler for the trio format, but Oz still held that Great American Songbook melody firmly by the throat while Tain bubbled like a cauldron and Genus countered expertly. As a table-setter, it was as tasty as the Beyond Burger I’d demolished upon arrival, and as refreshing as the Industrial Arts IPA I took great care to sip as the ninety-minute set blew by like a warm summer breeze.
Put simply, Jeff “Tain” Watts’ comps are as dynamic and content-filled as most drummer’s never-ending solos. Backing Wynton and Branford all those years taught Tain uncountable ways to be heard & acknowledged while the “real” soloist was doing his thing. On a night when Noy needed a foil to keep things farm-to-table fresh, Tain was The Man as always. The only mistake Genus made was going with an acoustic double bass, which kept getting lost in the mix no matter how the sound tech tried to jack it up. But even though you had to strain to listen, the effort was more than worth it, as Genus’ own outstanding sense of melody & lyric showed that there were three artists on stage, all of them ready & willing to paint vibrant pictures just for us.
“This is so amazing,” Noy enthused. “To play with real people… with real amps!” The crowd was just as jacked as Oz was, and we held that level as the trio rebooted Peggy Lee’s “Fever” up into the night with a sweet blues attack, and rolled through a late-Hendrix fusion jam that finished with Noy sub-referencing “Third Stone from The Sun.” It was all bright, filled with light, and gave everyone there that amazing feeling you get when great music is made in the moment, right before your very eyes. Noy closed things out with the original blues/jazz jam “Chocolate Souffle”, which – like all good desserts – put a beautiful bow on an outstanding meal.
Let’s face it, we were never going to be without music: Between Zoom concerts and Facebook Live, many players have been finding ways to get their stuff out there, although whether they’re being fairly compensated is an open question. Spike Wilner has put a structure around that with his Smalls web concerts, and he deserves all the props we can give him. But up here in the Hudson Valley, we’ve got actual full, live concert experiences that takes the edge off Life in the Age of COVID, and I give mad props to Tony DeFalco for making it possible to have a summer of live music with all good vittles attached – and summer ain’t done yet.
Photo Galley by Rudy Lu