Tony Oxley

Photograph copyright Dagmar Gebers

Other pages on this site include:
Photographs below copyright Franz-Heinrich Busch, taken at a duo performance with Derek Bailey in Vand'Oeuvre-les-Nancy, France at the Musique Action Festival on 14 May 1995. Click on a thumbnail below to see the full photographs:

Born Sheffield, 15 June 1938. Drums, percussion, violin, electronics.

Tony Oxley, with Derek Bailey and Gavin Bryars, created one of the foundations of free improvisation in the UK through their explorations in the group Joseph Holbrooke. A detailed retrospective view of Joseph Holbrooke can be found in Bailey (1992, pp. 86-93) but, briefly, the group existed in Sheffield from 1963 to 1966, initially playing conventional jazz though by 1965 playing totally improvised pieces. The fact that the three were 'isolated' in Sheffield from developments elsewhere (John Stevens and the SME) provided an ideal environment for experimentation and development. After that the participants moved to London, Oxley becoming the house drummer at Ronnie Scott's while all the while continuing with experimental music. He was in at the beginning of the Incus label with Bailey and Evan Parker and some of his work for that label is recognised as landmarks in the development of free music. He also appeared in various (early) versions of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra

In the last 25 years he has performed and recorded in an extremely wide variety of situations, from those where an emphasis on time-keeping is important to free situations with perhaps Paul Bley at one extreme and Cecil Taylor at the other. His work with Taylor, as a member of The Feel Trio with William Parker, in duos, or augmented with other musicians (such as the quartet of Taylor, Oxley, William Parker and Derek Bailey for two concerts in London and Manchester in 1991) lasted from 1988 to 1991 and can be seen by the viewing a selection of their concert schedule.

In recent years Tony Oxley has run his own Celebration Orchestra, worked with Bill Dixon - both are painters as well as musicians, and there have been plans for multimedia presentations - and with the Austrians, violinist Andreas Schreiber and pianist Dieter Glawischnig in the trio Cercle. This group briefly toured the UK in 1997 (having played the Beijing Jazz Festival in October 1996), with displays of Oxley's paintings, and had a broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in May 1997. Oxley has also begun to work again in duo with Derek Bailey, playing, for example at the Knitting Factory in New York in September 1995, in London in November 1995 and in Vand'Oeuvre in France in May 1997. He also remains in demand to bring unconventionality to conventional settings, particularly with his 'rainforest percussion', playing for example, on ECM recordings with Paul Bley and John Surman and with the Tomasz Stanko Quartet.

His kit is highly individual and an early version of it was described by Derek Bailey (1992, p. 101) thus:

'The acoustic part is: drums - eight, various sizes and texture; cymbals, fourteen, various sizes, thicknesses, weights, sounds; cowbells - five, from six inches to sixteen inches; wood surfaces - five, wood blocks and oriental skulls; saucepans - two. The amplified section of the kit is: amplified frame containing cymbals, wires, various kitchen equipment, motor generators, springs, used with 3 contact mikes (home-made), 2 volume pedals, 1 octave splitter, 1 compressor, 1 ring modulator and oscillator, 1 amplifier and two speakers.'

More recently the whole kit has been slimmed down and the electronics have (probably temporarily) been put to one side, but the playing, of course, remains individualistic. A transcription of an interview with Oxley, where he discusses his current kit (1997) with Alyn Shipton in a BBC Radio 3 Broadcast is available, complete with sound clips.

Tony Oxley is also a painter and three pages of his paintings can also be viewed: Paintings 1 or Paintings 2 and Paintings 3.

Fax: +49 2162 26317.

Further information

Priestley, Brian (1986), A drum celebration, The Wire, no. 32, (October), pp. 22-24.
Taylor, Trevor (1997), A different kind of swing, Avant, no. 2, (Summer), pp. 46-48.
Eisenstadt, Harris (1999), Tony Oxley: the medicine man turns 60, Coda, no. 286, (July/August), pp. 2-5.
Watson, Ben (1999), Exiled in time, The Wire, no. 186, (August), pp. 18-23.


1965, Rehearsal extract, Incus CD single 01. Joseph Holbrooke.
1968, Live at Ronnie Scott's Sony-Columbia 494439. Ronnie Scott & The Band.
1969, Extrapolation Marmalade (GB) 608007/Polydor CD 841598. With John McLaughlin.
1969, The Baptised traveller CBS (GB) 52664/Sony-Columbia 494438.
1970, Four compositions for sextet CBS (GB) 64071/Sony-Columbia 494437.
1971, Ichnos RCA Victor (GB) SF 8215.
1971, Flight, Turtle TUR301. Released in Howard Riley's name; trio with Barry Guy.
1972, Ode, Incus 6-7/Intakt 041. London Jazz Composers' Orchestra.
1972/1973, Sequences 72 & 73, Emanem 4018. Paul Rutherford/Iskra 1912.
1973, Synopsis, Incus 13 LP/Emanem 4044 CD. Howard Riley trio.
1973, Song for someone, Incus 10 (LP)/psi 04.01 (CD). Kenny Wheeler.
1974/75, Overground, Emanem 4054 CD. Howard Riley Trio.
1974/75, The Tony Oxley Alan Davie Duo, ADMW 005.
1974/75, The Tony Oxley Alan Davie Duo, aIlIl005.
1975, Tony Oxley Incus 8.
1977, February papers Incus 18.
1977, Soho suites volume 1 1977 Incus CD 29. Part of double CD.
1977, Rebels, travelers & improvisers, Ictus 132. Part of the Ictus Records 30th anniversary collection.
1977, A birthday tribute - 75 years Incus CD63.
1979, Good old circus/Stary dobry cirkus, FMP SAJ-33/Supraphon. Interjazz IV/European Improvisors Band.
1980, Study II/Stringer, Intakt CD095. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1981, Ach was!? FMP 0870. Ulrich Gumpert/Radu Malfatti/Tony Oxley.
1981, Ein nachmittag in Peitz Jazzwerkstatt JW018. Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky.
1981, Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz Jazzwerkstatt JW032. Conny Bauer/Gianluigi Trovesi/Tony Oxley/Dietmar Diesner.
1983, Nutty hat ART CD 6046. Coe, Oxley & Co.
1983, Live in London Jazzwerkstatt JW016. S.O.H.
1984, The Berlin Station FMP SAJ-57. Trio with Phil Minton and Ernst Rejseger.
1984, Berlin Djungle, FMP 1120/Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP246CD. Peter Brötzmann Clarinet Project.
1984, Live at Roccella Jonica Splasc(h) CD H 508.2. Winstone/Wheeler/Fresu/Taylor/Damiani/Oxley.
1985, Tomorrow is here Dossier ST 7507. The Tony Oxley Celebration Orchestra.
1987, the Glider & the Grinder, Bead 25. Music from the collaborative project of Tony Oxley and Phil Wachsmann.
1987, European Jazz Ensemble, Ear-Rational ECD1011.
1987/1988, Zurich concerts, Intakt 005. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1988, Leaf palm hand FMP CD 6/Jazzwerkstatt JW026. Duo with Cecil Taylor.
1989, Seven compositions (Trio) 1989 Hat ART CD 6025. Anthony Braxton trio with Adelhard Roidinger, bass.
1989, Seven compositions (Trio) 1989 HatOLGOY 658. Anthony Braxton trio with Adelhard Roidinger, bass.
1989, Looking (Berlin version) The Feel Trio FMP CD 25. The Feel Trio: Cecil Taylor/William Parker/ Tony Oxley.
1989, Looking (Berlin version) Corona FMP CD 31. The Feel Trio plus Harald Kimmig, violin and Muneer Abdul Fataah, cello.
1990, Celebrated blazons FMP CD 58. The Feel Trio.
1990, Extreme Splasc(h) CD H 303-2. Augusto Mancinelli.
1990, Explore Splasc(h) CD H 304-2. Duo with Stefano Battaglia.
1990, Nailed, FMP CD 108. Cecil Taylor: The Quartet.
1990, Melancholy, FMP CD 104. Cecil Taylor Workshop Ensemble.
1991, Adventure playground ECM 1463. John Surman's record with Paul Bley and Gary Peacock.
1991, In the evenings out there ECM 1488. With John Surman, Paul Bley and Gary Peacock.
1992, The Tony Oxley Quartet Incus CD15.
1993, Quartet Jazzwerkstatt JW033. Tony Oxley/Derek Bailey/Pat Thomas/Matt Wand.
1993, Vade mecum, Soul Note 121208. With Bill Dixon.
1993, Vade mecum II, Soul Note 121211. With Bill Dixon.
1993, A birthday tribute - 75 years Incus CD63.
1990, Sulphur Splasc(h) CD H 430-2. Trio with Stefano Battaglia and Paolino Dalla Porta.
1994, Chaos, Soul Note 121285. Paul Bley/Furio Di Castri/Tony Oxley.
1994, The enchanted messenger, Soul Note 121284. The Tony Oxley Celebration Orchestra.
1994, Matka Joanna from the angels, ECM 1544. Tomasz Stanko Quartet.
1995, Newborn, Perplex Q 074. A Tony Oxley Production (does not play).
1995, Soho suites volume 2 1995 Incus CD 30. Part of double CD.
1996, Leosia, ECM 1603. Tomasz Stanko Quartet.
1997, Deep, Fish Music FM 007. With Ekkehard Jost.
1997, Some other tapes, Fish Music FM 009/010. One track on Ekkehard Jost compilation.
1998, Digger's harvest, FMP CD 103. Duo with Alex von Schlippenbach.
1998, Papyrus volume I, Soul Note 121308. Bill Dixon.
1998, Papyrus volume II, Soul Note 121338. Bill Dixon.
1998, Joseph Holbrook '98, Incus CD 39.
1998, The Moat recordings, Tzadik 7616. Joseph Holbrook Trio.
1999, Berlin abbozzi, FMP CD 110. Bill Dixon.
1999, Floating phantoms, aIlIl001. The B.I.M.P. Quartet.
2000, Triangular screen, SOFA 501.
2000, GratHovOx, Nuscope Recordings CD 1012. Gratkowski/Van Hove/Oxley.
2002, Cecil Taylor/Bill Dixon/Tony Oxley, Victo CD082.
1975/2006, The advocate, Tzadik TZ 7618. Derek Bailey/Tony Oxley duo + dedication to DB.
2008, Ailanthus/Altissima: bilateral dimensions of 2 root songs, Triple Point 037. Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley.

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