Selected quotes, relating to Pete’s compositions and guitar-playing
Of the CDs by Curious Paradise
“This album sounds truly amazing: I love it!”
Gilad Atzmon, Oct ‘07
There’s a lightness of step, a sweetness of melody about Oxley’s writing that immediately invites you into the dance that is his latest and most satisfying band release yet. And this is very much a band release: although Oxley writes the material, and his long, fluid guitar lines put a kick in your step, it’s the way the band works as an organic whole that gives ‘Now!’ the twist of something special about it. There’s plenty of hard work gone into these lissom grooves and uplifting melodic lines; some wondered how Oxley could follow the splendid ‘English Elements (Live!)’ and the loss of stellar soloists like Steve Hamilton and Mark Lockheart. Well, Now! you have the answer.
Jazzwise, October ‘07
"Great album, great band, great achievement"
Richard Niles (BBC R2 'New Jazz Standards'), Sept ‘07
"Formed and led by Oxford-based guitarist Pete Oxley Curious Paradise are a distinctly English take on the sprawling world/Americana style patented by the Pat Metheny Group, but with a refreshing fleet-fingered folk intricacy and melodic, pastoral elegance that is very much their own. Launching their third album, in almost as many years, entitled 'Now!', Oxley's finely wrought compositions and myriad guitar sounds give his band plenty of room to stretch and burn."
TIME OUT, Sept ‘07
"Like the earlier (Curious Paradise) sessions, Now! features plenty of tightly delivered, breezily melodic contemporary music, and Oxley's authority as a composer has audibly grown. ...Pete Oxley’s most energised project yet”
The Guardian, Sept ‘07
"The welcome return of Pete Oxley's ambitious panoramic jazz band with folk and world flourishes. They head out to play the new material live, in which setting they err on the side of brilliance, so catch them while you can." ~
Jazzwise, Sept ‘07
“English Elements (Live!) succeeds brilliantly in marrying the excitement and creative freedom of a live date with the production qualities of a studio album... Formed as recently as September 2003, Pete Oxley’s Curious Paradise quintet sound like they’ve been gigging together forever... the sophistication of his writing and arranging comes strongly to the fore in the memorable ‘English Elements’... the kinetic energy and virtuosic playing from all hands on ‘Nocturnal Navigation’ complete with awesome drum breakdown rounds off this hugely imaginative collection.”
Jazzwise August ‘05
“...His own playing is quite masterly and he writes the kind of themes that invite and inspire improvisation. Most impressive of all is the range of moods and textures this five-piece band manages to create.”
The Observer 29th May ‘05
“...Marshland March takes us into the Oxley paradise, and one that very quickly shows us his strengths in composition...Here is structure and form that is intelligent, interesting - and something new on each subsequent listening...”
The Oxford Times 5th August ‘05
An attempt, on guitarist Pete Oxley’s part, to ‘through-write an album of music which would have some sort of thematic coherence’, Curious Paradise features a quintet comprised of multi-reedsman Mark Lockheart, pianist Richard Fairhurst, bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Russ Morgan, plus Oxley on all manner of guitars, playing an immediately accessible suite of fresh, airy numbers, some with an almost Metheny-ish breeziness, others more contemplative, but all remarkably assured and cogent.
Various manifestations of British weather are celebrated, but the resultant music is never stiflingly programmatic; rather, the themes are just complex enough to reward the listener while straightforward enough to provide hospitable chord sequences for the considerable soloing skills of Lockheart (particularly effective on tenor, but also bass clarinet), Fairhurst and the leader himself.
Jazz at Ronnie Scotts August ‘04
“This debut album from Pete Oxley’s new quintet effortlessly crosses the borders between jazz, world music and folk, and yet still has a distinct identity of its own. It boasts great compositions, excellent musicianship and a nice production you would normally expect from the likes of Pat Metheny or Joni Mitchell. The opener, English Elements, an unusual blend of English folk melodies, jazz harmonies and fusion soloing, sets a high standard that doesn’t let up until the closer, To You. If you like mellow jazz with a taste of adventure, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album!”
***** (5 stars)
Guitar Techniques (CD of the Month), June‘04
“Pete Oxley’s most energised project yet, an open and melodic contemporary jazz and soft-groove set for a revamped band including fine UK saxophonist Mark Lockheart. Oxley is an imaginative explorer of both acoustic guitar and plugged effects, the luxuriously gliding Aurora’s Effect is a fine original ballad hauntingly developed by Lockheart’s tenor... Halcyon Moments confirms how far Oxley’s composing skills have developed”.
John Fordham – The Guardian
The combination of Pete Oxley’s guitar and Mark Lockheart’s saxophone provides this band’s core sound. In its relaxed, easy-going tuneful way, it is very attractive... Oxley composed all seven pieces and they are full of graceful, open melodies and smoothly layered harmony. The great trick with music like this is to make it sound easy, even when some of the effects are quite subtle and hard to bring off. The aura of Pat metheny hovers around the proceedings, but Curious Paradise manage to say something original within the well-established genre.”
Dave Gelly – The Observer
Having retired the New Noakes, guitarist Pete Oxley launches a stellar new band (including Perfect Houseplant Mark Lockheart) to further pursue his individual fusion of jazz/folk/rock. The result of a rush of summer inspiration, this through-composed set is his best yet; intricate, arcane, identifiably Oxleyian and peculiarly English. Oxley's tenacity (self-financed tours and all) marks him as true jazz troubadour.
**** (four stars)
“Oxley’s main achievement is to write appealing music that one would like to hear more of.”
“Delightful, truly extraordinary music. Drawing from folk melodies and a clear understanding of South American idioms, Curious Paradise has successfully melded an underlying Englishness with the heat and passion that one normally associates with Brazilian music.”
Daryl Johnson (New York)
“The CD is superb. This is a very personal project and Pete has succeeded in finding his composers ‘voice’. I’ve been listening to Pete play his own compositions and those of others for four years now and there is maturity and confidence in this work. Personally, I love his ballads, and the seventh composition To You is sublime.”
Selected live reviews
Pizza Express Jazz Club, London.
A handful of British jazz groups embody a musical sense of Englishness, straddling the intricacies of folk music, absorbing multicultural rhythms and displacing any sense of jazz nostalgia with their own painterly harmonies. Tim Garland’s Lammas and the perennially melodic Perfect Houseplants achieved this this kind of equilibrium and thus bandleader and guitarist Pete Oxley’s Curious Paradise ride this slipstream with due cause and momentum. At the end of a nation-wide tour, tonight’s 33 Records showcase is a prescient moment for this still relatively new line-up, the minor changes from the eponymously titled album are that of Steve Watts on bass and Steve Hamilton on piano and keys.
It’s a tricky feat to perform such delicately nuanced themes to a chatty Saturday night crowd at the Pizza, this is more arts centre fare, yet the band rise to the challenge and finish with resounding approval. Oxley’s weather themed titles are particularly apt for an English jazz musician to draw upon, with our volatile and sometimes unpredictable climate often reflecting our national mood. Thus ‘English Elements’ opens with streaking slices of melody from Oxley’s guitar and Mark Lockheart’s soprano, the Brazilian rhythmic undercurrent bubbling with an in-built momentum, developing through a steady cymbal pulse from the insistent brilliance of drummer Russ Morgan. Oxley is a great guitarist, as technically astute as any of his peers, but what he might lack in sheer chops he more than compensates for with the freshness of his writing, while switching easily from Godin electro-acoustic, to hollow-body Gibson 175 to his synth-patched six-string. Hamilton and Watts are noticeably brighter and deeper than the album’s pairing, and both Lockheart and Hamilton distinguish themselves on ‘Nocturnal Navigation’, the pounding Brazilified showstopper.
The Metheny comparisons ring true but only insofar as Oxley’s melodic sense is about creating a narrative sense of time and place. Finding complex, emotional themes, reflected in our fickle weather, is something only a musician in touch with his feelings can achieve with this kind of success.
Jazzwise, August ‘04
Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
Plenty of guitarist’s sound like Pat Metheny the improviser, but the Americans ensemble of country- music, bebop, Latin American dance rhythms and cannily adapted Brazilian vocal harmonies has proved harder to catch. Pete Oxley, the Oxford-based guitarist has created an attractive mix of his model’s ensemble sound and a homegrown brew of original compositions with Curious Paradise.
Steve Hamilton, an excellent pianist with McCoy Tyner leanings, has refined the Oxley band’s focus, His solos constantly raised the game, and so did his support for saxophonist Mark Lockheart, whose frontline interplay with Oxley’s guitar is the group’s heartbeat.
The Guardian, June ‘04
The Zodiac, Oxford
The CD is supported by a nation-wide tour that stopped off at the Zodiac in Oxford. Not too much of a surprise that the larger venue was filled, as, in another guise Oxley is one of The Spin’s leading lights. It was good to see a large and appreciative audience there to celebrate this music especially as curious Paradise live have that rare ability to perfectly complement the recorded version without sounding like a recording. And a jazz audience has a certain amount of sophistication and is pretty discerning. This is a group performance that emanates from one man. This is not to say that he demands the centre stage - indeed he is one of the most unassuming artists on the circuit. What is important to him is the music - and Oxley’s ability to create such pieces and then have them realised now becomes important to the listener.
Oxford Times, August ‘04
Of the CD Blue In Black And White
“All in all, this is as strong an album of contemporary composition and soloing as you’ll hear anywhere.”
“Featuring compositions of considerable refinement (by Oxley and Dave Gordon) over deep and subtle grooves, this is Oxley’s most distinct and original album to date.”
“A no-nonsense feast of improvisational romps; the compositions vary between fast, complex (immaculately played) unison lines & more sparse and atmospheric melodies. The grooves all sit well and leave plenty of space for high quality solos from all involved, particularly Oxley himself.”
“A blend of clean-lined melodic appeal, uncluttered yet intriguing harmonic movement and occasionally film-like dynamics is underpinned by a tasteful range of rhythms and textures, often with a latin tinge. Oxley impresses as a player of intelligently assured touch.”
Jazz Journal International
Of the CD Up To Here
“[Up To Here] demonstrates Oxley’s impressive compositional skills. Great stuff!”
“Guitarist Pete Oxley’s second band CD is a composer’s album par excellence. The themes stay central to everyone’s playing and there is a composed feeling to the way they flow together, arrangements that work as a whole. The playing is cool and faultless.“
Of the CD East Coast Joys
“A gifted composer in addition to being a talented and obviously well schooled musician. Strong melodic ideas and themes played with a straight-ahead electric tone float over his supportive yet unobtrusive rhythm section of Andrew Brown and Russ Morgan. Prelude is the delicate opening track where Oxley’s acoustic guitar shows a sensitivity seldom heard in ‘electric’ players. Not a ‘lick-copier’, Pete here demonstrates a feeling and a depth that will hopefully increase his reputation as both a guitarist and composer.”
Just Jazz Guitar (U.S.A.)
© pete oxley 2006