Tony Oxley Quintet
The Baptised Traveller
Columbia : 1969
TO, drums; Evan Parker, tenor sax; Kenny Wheeler, trumpet, flugelhorn; Derek Bailey, electric guitar; Jeff Clyne, bass.
This pilgrimage starts through the forest along dirt roads whose tracks vanish so gradually you’re bushwacking through the ferns before you finally notice. You’re surrounded by fog and mossy tree trunks, lost in the same mythical English woods inhabited by such haunted folk groups as Comus. In the distance, you might even make out the faint echo of their pulsating rhythms and strangulated cries. You continue to march forward and stumble through a clearing into the “Stone Garden.”
It’s a modest shrine of rocks arranged in various circular patterns, half overgrown with vegetation. The sort of place that might have been tended by gnomes, of the unfriendly d’Aulaires variety. You’re both wary and enthralled by these pagan places. You imagine yourself protected by your religion, but the vows can’t quite shake the sense that the Olde Ways have never fully vanished.
Tony Oxley’s classic The Baptised Traveller features an all-star line-up of British jazz, and notably marks guitarist Bailey’s first appearance on record (if this fine Clifford Allen review is on the mark). The second track on this relatively brief album, Charlie Mariano’s “Stone Garden,” is a stark change of pace from the more frenetic blow-outs. It’s almost a tone poem, slowlyÂ accretingÂ layers of ambiant textures while traversing aÂ distinctly English landscape. Or at least an eldritch English landscape as carved out by British avant jazz and free-folk groups circa the late ’60s, aÂ clearing of porous border and shifting shadow.