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Tony Oxley Project 1

A key figure in British jazz, drummer, percussionist, and composer Tony Oxley was both a leader and a collaborator in the avant-garde. Born in Sheffield, England on June 15, 1938, he began his musical apprenticeship on the piano, before taking up the drums, which became his preferred instrument. He played in several ballroom orchestras and joined the Black Watch during his military service (1957-1960), before taking courses in music theory and improvisation and leading his own local quartet between two trips to New York between 1960 and 1964. In 1963, Tony Oxley met Gavin Bryars and Derek Bailey, with whom he formed the Joseph Holbrooke Trio, which devoted itself to free jazz until 1967. Hired by the club Ronnie Scott's, where he became drummer-in-residence, Tony Oxley accompanied many visiting American musicians  including Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, and Sonny Rollins. After an appearance in Gordon Beck's band and an award-winning performance with Alan Skidmore at the Montreux Festival, guitarist John McLaughlin invited him to play on his album Extrapolation (1969). Tony Oxley then formed a quintet featuring Derek Bailey, Jeff Clyne, Evan Parker, and Kenny Wheeler and recorded the album The Baptised Traveller. The quintet expanded to a sextet with the arrival of trombonist Paul Rutherford, and they recorded the album 4 Compositions for Sextet (1970). Tony Oxley founded the Incus Records label and led a prolific career as a leader on albums such as Ichnos (1971), Tony Oxley (1975), February Papers (1977), SOH (1979), Bodies (1990), The Tony Oxley Quartet (1993), The Enchanted Messenger (1995), Triangular Screen (2000) and The Advocate with Derek Bailey (2007). He also collaborated with several other musicians including Cecil Taylor, Bill Dixon, Paul Bley, Anthony Braxton, Tomasz Stańko, Peter Brötzmann, George Gruntz, John Surman, Howard Riley, Alan Davie and Barry Guy and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. Through his recordings and the many groups he has led - including the Celebration Orchestra and the Tony Oxley Project 1 - the drummer has never ceased to explore the possibilities offered by electronics. In 2013, his close friends and family accompanied him in the tribute A Birthday Tribute: 75 Years, ten years before the album The New World (2023), which featured one of his paintings on the cover. Tony Oxley died on December 26, 2023, at the age of 85.

©Copyright Music Story Stephen Schnee 2024


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