TONY OXLEY

Triangular Screen
SOFA 501

Resident of Germany for many years, vanguard British percussionist Tony Oxley has long been the link between more robust Continental and American improvisers and the rarefied sounds he and others pioneered in London in the late 1960s.

Modest, he never pulls rank when it comes to working with other musicians and dealing with their ideas. And the title of this live CD proves it. Metaphorically, 63-year-old Oxley, who has numbered such Free Jazz heavyweights as pianist Cecil Taylor, trumpeter Bill Dixon and pianist Paul Bley as playing partners, sees himself here on equal footing with two young Norwegian improvisers. He's one-third of a triangle.

Take "Second Scan", for instance. Recorded in a club, two months after the jazz festival performance that makes up the first track, the three musicians are already interacting as trio members, not as an improviser elder statesman with two subservient acolytes.

The unwavering tones produced from Oxley's trademark oversized cowbell, treated cymbals and wood block concretely link to the quiet zigzagging of Ivar Grydeland's guitar and Tommy Kluften's steady, unvarying bass pulse. Usually working in the area defined by Oxley's old partner Derek Bailey on one hand and roots fascinated Bill Frisell on the other, at times the guitarist soon ratchets up the volume and velocity. Instantaneously accepting the detour, the drummer, who has piloted a few howling, big band sized Free Jazz ensembles in his day, allows his sound to turn harder, faster and louder. The bassist ends up as the only casualty, since he's nearly inaudible until he introduces tough arco shrieks.

Kluften gets his own back on "Third Scan" with bowed passages that eerily sound like a coffin lid being slowly lowered, and others which conjure up the metal image of taut bass strings being stretched away from the wood. Matching this are little excited clawing tones from the guitarist and the stentorian sound of that giant cowbell.

Treatments in the form of pre-recorded tapes seem only to make their appearance on "Fourth Scan", a restrained — at less than four minutes — drum excursion. Pushing the backing tracks behind him, as he would never do with a live musician, Oxley is able to extract sounds as different as cymbal-created ringing fire bells and breakers of deep-sea basso profondo tones from his bass drum.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. First Scan 2. Second Scan 3. Third Scan 4. Fourth Scan

Personnel: Ivar Grydeland (guitar); Tommy Kluften (bass); Tony Oxley (percussion and pre-recorded tapes)