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Tony Oxley

Born: June 15, 1938    Primary Instrument: Drums

Tony Oxley

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...
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His kit is highly individual 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.

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