Tony Oxley obituary

Drummer and percussionist who developed his own musical language as a composer

A pivotal moment in the career of the British drummer and percussionist Tony Oxley came when a successful European tour as part of a trio led by the celebrated American jazz pianist Bill Evans was followed by an invitation to remain with the group when they returned to the US. This was in 1972, and permanent membership of the trio would have enhanced the young drummer’s prestige within the jazz world. Instead, he politely declined, believing that to accept would be an unacceptable diversion from his self-imposed task of developing musical languages as a player and composer.

The evidence of his resolve could be seen that same year in the cover picture of Ichnos, an album of Oxley’s music. It showed a drum kit that appeared to have been assembled in a junkyard, with the regular drums and cymbals accessorised by an upturned cooking pot, a washboard, a film reel, and various other steel and aluminium objects. Later a pair of bongos would replace the snare drum, and a new dimension was added by a giant custom-made cowbell.

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