129CD - Tony Oxley - Unreleased 1974-2016 - CD plus download

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Available for the first time on CD, this is another collection of essential pieces from one of the originators and masters of this style.

These recordings were selected from the personal collection of Tony Oxley and were mastered with superb sound for this release by Karsten Lehl under Tony’s supervision. Some of the pieces were edited into their final composed form many years after the original recording was made.

Tony Oxley - drums, percussion, electronics  with:

Tracks 1 - 3 (1974)
Barry Guy - double bass
Dave Holdsworth - trumpet
Howard Riley - piano
Paul Rutherford - trombone

Track 4 (1981)
Howard Riley - piano
Larry Stabbins - saxophones
Phil Wachsmann - violin
Hugh Metcalfe - guitar

Track 5 (2016)
Stefan Hoelker - percussion


NB: Sleeve errata - Track 4 "Frame" is shown on the sleeve of the first pressing  as a 1974 recording.  This track was recorded in 1981.



The album is a spectacular showcase of British / European Improvised Music at its best and has very limited to what most people consider as Jazz, sonically exploring interstellar space rather that our humble earthy neighborhood, but obviously preserving the improvising spirit and using sound as a metaphysical medium to express emotion and artistic expression.  The three early tracks form 1974 are perhaps the most remarkable, considering the date of recording, which proves that Oxley already at that time was light-years ahead of most the other musical explorers at the time. The absolute freedom from any references and restrictions characterizes these recordings as completely pioneering at the time, and honestly standing up to anything created in Improvised Music ever since.  Kudos to Oxley for releasing these recordings from his personal vaults and to Martin Archer for releasing them faithfully on his Discus label, making them available to the world. You make us all spiritually richer being able to listen to this music.  Overall, this is a tremendously important historical material, which opens yet another window into the musical legacy of one of the most important British / European Improvising Music personas, which are both delightful and enlightening. An absolute must for Improvising Music followers! - Adam Baruch, JAZZ IN BRITAIN



Tony Oxley was in on the first stirrings of English free improvisation. But compared to Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, with whom he co-founded Incus Records, the percussionist has not been very aggressively documented. Discus Music is one of the labels that has stepped forward in recent years to provide a fuller picture of his music......Three of its five tracks were originally performed in 1974 by a quintet.....Another lengthy piece is from 1981, and the final track features percussionist Stefan Hoelker. On all of them, Oxley plays drums, percussion and electronics.. He also edited the 1974 music into its final form. Oxley's interfventions are rarely obvious, although the fanfare which ends "Ensemble 1" does seem to come out of nowhere. The early quintet's performances are taught and decisive, constructed from accumulations of brief, assertive gestures from the string and brass, and emphatic bursts of texture from the piano and drums. The music seethes with motion, drawing the listener from one fully formed moment to the next. Two more recent pieces develop in a more organic fashion. "Frame (1981)" begins with quick, cutting string sounds, which build to a dense frenzy, and then cut out to make space for Stabbins's coarse cries. The next section is a sort of concerto for saxophone and explosions obtained from plucked strings, bashed metal and roughly handled piano guts, which then morphs into a furious whirlwind. Once more, the music conveys a sense of ceaseless movement. "Combination (2016)", the disc's only music to originate in this century, is much more fitful, with near silent pauses punctuating the surges of metal and prickly, shortwave graininess. - Bill Meyer, THE WIRE



These days it’s not that often we get reminders about just what an inventive musician Tony Oxley was, is and ever-will-be; a percussionist who constantly curves a sense of sound sculpture out of metal and skin that entices the ears into double-taking hearing’s expectations. I’ve seen/heard Mr Oxley many times; the stay-with-me memory of The Ox plunging Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor and William Parker into a deep pool of possibilities at the South Bank as they all carve sky from the interior of the concert hall, well it stays with you.  I’ve looked at that old Hayman drum-kit with its assortment of collected extras – giant bell-cymbals, woodblocks, Persian stud drums, unscrapped metal – and tried to link the light intense clatter of batterie to what my eyes are witnessing. Tony Oxley never was like the others. What these 48 minutes provide is a pin-your-ears-back encounter with a texture of soundings that, though factually ‘coming from musicians’, in essence are driven from decisions that are purely about grinding sound/noise/echo/silence into something akin to the pigments of colouring (Tony Oxley is a fascinating visual artist as well as percussionist.) Although the 48 minutes on this Discus album are split over a time-line between 1974 and 2016, that’s not how I hear it. I’ve been giving this CD an hour of each day for the last week and, for me, it hangs complete to itself. The fact that it starts with collaborators like Barry Guy and Paul Rutherford, moves into a line-up with Larry Stabbins, Phil Wachmann and others, finally to emerge into a twelve minute prologue with percussionist Stefan Hoelker and T.O. solely supplying electronics, is fact, but in terms of intention, detail and sheer sonic vitality, these three sessions come together as a whole sound chasm to climb into irrespective of when or with whom they emerged. Essential music, yes contradict myself, essential music, take an hour or two or three to confirm it. - Steve Day, April 2022



Little needs to be said of the percussionist Tony Oxley’s credentials as a figurehead of improvised music – either through his pioneering mid-1960s work with Gavin Bryars and Derek Bailey in the Joseph Holbrooke Trio, or later trans-Atlantic liaisons with Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton. These previously unheard snippets from his own archive underscore his passionate, unswerving commitment to non-idiomatic sound creation.  The first tranche (recorded in 1974 but edited into their final forms between 2005 and 2020) feature what looks like a conventional quintet with drums, bass, trumpet, piano and trombone, but deal in dense abstractions augmented with tactile electronic treatments.  Anyone who has seen Oxley perform live will also recognise the cavernous clangs and scrapes of the enormous cowbells and gongs with which he famously pimped his drumkit.  The second session, also from 1974, is an intense 14-minute piece, again for quintet, this time showcasing the shrill shrieks and tart scrabblings of Phil Wachmann’s violins and Larry Stabbins’ juddering sax honks. A much later session from 2016, has Oxley concentrating on electronics while Stefan Hoelker adds acoustic percussion, the duo conjouring ghostly emanations and diffuse soundscapes. It’s a pretty convincing survey of a life devoted to serious investigation. - Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise



Free-improv label Discus Music have pulled off quite a coup with the release of hitherto unheard and fascinating Tony Oxley recordings here. Oxley, now in his 80s, is long regarded as one of the UK's greatest jazz drummers and this collection from his own collection of recordings spans decades and offers some wonderful moments of free improvisation. Trumpeter Dave Holdsworth makes a sterling contribution among the players, his style reminiscent of Tomasz Stanko who Oxley worked with on some key recordings in the 1990s. The Discus release also features Howard Riley and Paul Rutherford among the personnel and the open style gives plenty of room to all the players aided and abetted by Oxley's tasteful use of electronics. - Marlbank - https://www.marlbank.net/



 I’ve long dug the playing & composing & directing of British jazz drum pioneer Tony Oxley. Starting with his work on John McLaughlin’s debut, ‘Extrapolation’ (1968), the Howard Riley Trio and his own quintet (two brilliant records on Columbia UK in 1970/1971), through his work with Derek Bailey and Cecil Taylor, he has remained at the cutting edge of avant jazz drumming, experimental percussion & electronics. As far as being a leader, his recordings are few & far between. Recently the Confront and Discus labels have released several historic dates of unreleased treasures.    This disc consists of three dates, two from 1974 (both different quintets) and a duo set from 2016. Starting off with three pieces by the first quintet: Oxley, Guy, Holdsworth, Riley & Wachsmann. If you’ve listened to enough of older style British improv, you know that the Brits have their own way of playing ‘Free Music’, also known as ‘insect music’. Quintet 1 features inside-the piano explorations, eerie electronics, that distinctive drums &/or percussion sound and the unique sound of brass that was invented by the likes of Paul Rutherford, Radu Malfatti or the Bauer Brothers. There is a certain brass sound which sounds as if the notes are being played backwards (via tapes), which can be heard on the short tracks on Hugh Hopper’s ‘1984’ album. Those sounds are especially effective and hypnotic with both Mr. Rutherford (trombone) and Mr. Holdsworth (on trumpet), providing those sounds. Quintet 2 features: Oxley, Metcalfe, Riley, Stabbins & Wachsmann. Violinist Phil Wachsmann is a longtime sonic explorer of what some listeners call “insect music”, referring to those short, bent-note interactions that UK improvisers seem to favor. Wachmann’s playing is at the center of “Frame”, an extraordinary 15 minute epic of cosmic, improv weirdness which features some intense playing from Weekend saxist Larry Stabbins. The final piece, “Combination”, is a duo of Mr. Oxley on electronics and Stefan Hoelker on acoustic percussion. Mr. Hoelker is the only musician here with whom I had heard little about although he has worked with Mr. Oxley previously for an orchestra album. Mr. Oxley has been working with electronics and amplified percussion for many years, going back to 1971. Both Mr. Oxley and Mr. Hoelker are sonic pioneers and it is hard to tell them apart at times except for the occasional recognizable sounds of cymbals. Although this piece was recorded more than forty years after the previous piece, Mr. Oxley’s distinctive sound and approach is similar, evolving on certain levels. It is Tony Oxley’s sound which is at the center of each of these pieces, all of which are captivating to the serious listeners amongst us. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG  NYC