Circumvention Music CD045 (2005)





Jason Robinson (tenor saxophone, Bb clarinet, and percussion)
Michael Dessen (trombone and percussion)
Scott Walton (acoustic bass )
Nathan Hubbard (drumkit, marimba, toy glockenspiel, and percussion)

X Marks The Spot (Hubbard)
Shadows At Night (Notes From A Quarry) (Robinson)
Septurnal Spell (Dessen)
Put Some Butter On It (for Malachi Favors Maghostus) (Hubbard)
Indianhead Canyon (Hubbard)
The Wrangler (Dessen)
Wolf In Sheeps Clothing (Hubbard)
Blacon (Beyond The Divide) (Robinson)

III is Cosmologic’s third release as a group and continues the collaboration and rigorous evolution of musical approaches which have become a hallmark of the California-based quartet. This new release demonstrates complex, original compositions that have been transformed through extensive group work and improvisation. The resulting pieces draw upon the strengths of Cosmologic’s highly personal musical approaches and create new ways for the group to explore diverse musical landscapes. Because of this, Cosmologic’s performances range widely across different methodologies in improvised music, sometimes within the same piece. Rather than viewing their work as a pastiche of contrasting styles, Cosmologic considers their work as a dialogue among different but related traditions of improvised music, a space where they can explore multifaceted, kaleidoscopic sound worlds and everything that their histories represent about freedom, collectivity, responsibility, and imagination. This third release by the critically acclaimed quartet demonstrates these goals in refined detail.

purchasing - Circumvention Music - Bandcamp

reviews of Cosmologic III (CMCD039)

The perfect antidote to all those piles of ill-thought out and arrogantly 'spontaneous' psuedo-Improv discs that clog the mailbox. Cosmologic music is initiated by individual members and then doggedly worked and reworked until its internal logics are available for genuinely creative improvisation. Staring At The Sun and Syntaxis still get taken off the shelf. This one automatically goes to the priority pile. Much of the writing is by drummer/percussionist Nathan Hubbard, though there are a couple each from trombonist Michael Dessen and reedsman Jason Robinson. Scott Walton completes the regular personnel on string bass and Al Scholl adds some guest guitar. It's a busy, thoughtful mix, not afraid to use space and near silence, and certainly not afraid, as on Robinson's "Shadows At Night" to give a complex idea the kind of space and patience it demands. More than impressive.

Brian Morton The Wire March 2006


One Final Note - Daniel Spicer - 16 January 2006

Halfway through Cosmologic’s III, there’s a short track entitled “Put Some Butter on It (for Malachi Favors Maghostut)”—a stately solo bass composition that invokes the presence of the eponymous Art Ensemble of Chicago bassist and improvising hero. To a degree, it also serves as a clue to the whole rationale behind what this California-based quartet is trying to do on this, its third release. Just as the Art Ensemble made a point of showcasing “great black music, ancient to future”, touching on everything from African tribal rhythms to cosmic funk, so Cosmologic seems intent on exploring as many different types of jazz-based improvised music as it can in the space of an hour.

The album kicks off with the fractured funk of “X Marks the Spot”, propelled by Nathan Hubbard’s knitting-needle drums and Scott Waldon’s rich acoustic bass riff, over which Michael Dessen rolls out some louche, New Orleans-style slide trombone. It’s a prickly, itchy kind of groove—a sort of math-funk—that works equally well on the track “Septurnal Spell”, where irritable, disjointed horn charts are reconciled with a driving bass line to find a real deep-down groove, over which Jason Robinson blows an irresistible tenor.

But dance-floor jazz this ain’t. “Indianhead Canyon” starts off as a piece of sputtering improv, building in waves of non-rhythmic intensity before giving way to an exhausted lullaby with toy glockenspiel and the soothing feel of waves lapping the shore; while “The Wrangler” begins with Braxton-esque honks before moving into a creeping cop-show theme, like a paranoid Tom Scott after one too many ‘ludes.

Perhaps the album’s most ambitious and satisfying piece, though, is “Shadows at Night (Notes from a Quarry)”. Introduced by a distressed arco bass solo, the piece swiftly coalesces into a tight prog-jazz with a commanding martial drum beat, before dispersing into skittering improv, shot through with delicious Sonny Sharrock-style electric guitar shivers from guest Al Scholl. Finally, the piece slides into a slow-burning, bass-heavy groove with tumbling drums and oceanic cymbal-work providing the perfect palette for the two horns to take a solo each.

Elsewhere, “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” comes on with a stomping, monster beat, with big-booted Frankenstein horns fighting over the top—an ugly sax and a garrulous trombone scrapping in a downtown back alley. And, just in case the album hasn’t been eclectic enough for you, the closing track, “Blacon (Beyond the Divide)” is a hybrid of plodding metal—all fuzz guitar and doomy bass—with club-friendly drum n’ bass rhythms, which soon gives way to a scratchy solo guitar excursion from Scholl before coming down the home stretch as an unstoppable, blues-drenched behemoth on his way to bed.

III doesn’t so much stand as a document of the history of jazz as a brochure for the infinite varieties of modern improvisation (with the possible exception of the straight-ahead swing). It is however, in the final analysis, incredibly rewarding. Sure, it takes a little work but, for every cerebral exercise the listener is required to work through, there’s a funky-as-all-hell payoff. Personally, I call that a good night in.


Jazzosphere January 2006 (translation Sophie Plassard)

Bright light of the Southern Californian scene, for several years Cosmologic has offered a music that follows risky paths and dark contours. Nothing smooth, but a research on sounds, accompanied by thoughtful interpretations of texture.

Saxophonist Jason Robinson has presented this project from the beginning. Joined by percussionist Nathan Hubbard, a revelation of the California scene in the past years, as well as the solid trombonist Michael Dessen, this San Diego based group has succeeded in combining diverse musical aspects in a contemporary vision. Contrabassist Scott Walton, who completes the quartet, never rests, he knows how to support the group and maintain a burning tempo: that’s class! (listen especially to his solo interpretation of Put Some Butter On It, full of sensitivity).

iii, the most recent project to date includes pieces composed by Robinson, Hubbard, and Dessen that have been reworked by the quartet and enriched by masterful collective improvisations. The addition of electric and acoustic guitar by Al Scholl broadens the interpretive and timbral palette.

A solid disc that reveals some of the best West Coast instrumentalists.

THE OTHER STREAM: Now playing in the world music hall - Fresh ideas, solid technique propel players local and far
By George Varga UNION-TRIBUNE POP MUSIC CRITIC November 10, 2005

"The Other Stream" is a monthly look at music outside the mainstream that pushes borders and boundaries.

Cosmologic: "III" Circumvention (

The third and newest album by this talent-rich San Diego quartet is a gem of crisp ensemble-playing and finely calibrated improvisations. Tenor saxophonist Jason Robinson and trombonist Michael Dessen are equally enjoyable as soloists and as sensitive foils who support each other throughout, while bassist Scott Walton and drummer Nathan Hubbard anchor and drive the music with propulsive rhythms and deft contrapuntal accents.

Highlights include "Put Some Butter On It," Walton's deeply felt solo bass tribute to the Art Ensemble of Chicago's recently deceased bassist, Malachi Favors, and the Hubbard-penned "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," a funk-inflected tune that boasts some of Robinson's most charged playing on the album. Then there's "Shadows at Night" and "Blacon," both of which feature guest guitarist Al Scholl. Despite lasting more than 11 minutes each, these extended musical dialogues sustain interest throughout, thanks to their high level of craft and invention.

Ragazzi, Volkmar Mantei (translation courtesy of babelfish)

"III" let succeed to Jason Robinson (ts, cl, perc), Michael its (tb, perc), Scott whale clay/tone (b), Nathan Hubbard (dr, mar, perc) and guest aluminium Scholl (g) completely outstanding. If the photographs seem completely in the beginning still moderate and harmonious, already "x spreads marks the spot" with the vigorous motive the loaded and itself freely unloading Vitalitaet, ungreifbar in the widths of improvisativer music, omitted and virtuos like the play of a horde/hurdle of twelve-year-old boys in the 4 minutes of the first TRACK. The compositions come from Nathan Hubbard, Jason Robinson and Michael its. The arrangements were prepared in that volume, and so emphasis is to be recognized, these however in the humorous and nearly Tom WAITS resembled casualness genuesslich ausgelatscht. None stands back. Hubbard tilled its schlagzeug, as if he would get never again the chance to bring in itself. The blaeser dive already times into folkloristische waters and try themselves at a rudimentary breath of Albert Ayler, in order to then break open with the electrical guitar (in the course of the album times rocken can, mostly however like Fred Frith freakig and amelodisch easily, strange sounds of itself gives) to vital free passages, as if this horde/hurdle wants the world to save or a humoristic play illuminieren. The third co-operation of the quartet (plus guest) sank completely and emotional incomparably, from technical fingerfertigkeit and deep inspiration, and. Absolute one

Cosmologic - III: We've been checking out this group for a few years now, obviously (from the title), on 3 albums. This CD doesn't let your ears down
(at all); highly creative and original jazz tunes that make you explore territory you may not have moved through before. One of the things that made me fall in love with their style is the crisp, yet comforting, drumming of Nathan Hubbard... the great tenor sax & clarinet of Jason Robinson also contributes strongly to the enjoyment I have whenever I listen to this California-based assemblage. My favorite track on this album is "Wolf In Sheep's Clothing", a Hubbard composition. It definitely conveys a sense of the peril inherent when wolves (politicians) are among us (the herd)... just "feels" like a dangerous song... my only complaint about the tune is that it was (far) too short, but it's definitely music to get excited about! This is one of the best creative jazz CD's I've heard in 2005, & definitely deserves your attention. Get more information on the site - Rotcod Zzaj - Improvijazzation Nation
Cosmologic return with III (45) in which the quartet of Robinson, Dessan, Walton and Hubbard (wind, trombone, bass, percussion) is joined by Al Scholl on guitar as an equal, in fact foregrounded at times, partner. The attractive thing about this album is the joy (written in my notes after the notes for Septurnal spell that includes fast melodic playing, some strained wind, drum solo and then trombone) and pleasure that emerges with the music - there is some groove to it, a bit of dirty playing, occasional edginess, wonderful playing between Robinson's sax and Dessen's trombone where they can play parallel lines or counterpointed melodies. Particular band members are credited with particular songs, but you imagine that the group works the arrangements together because the result is so tight: the shifting guitar in Blacon (beyond the divide) that emerges slowly, becomes feedbacky and the wahwahs as the band rejoins follows a sax solo and leads into a loose playfulness before the brass counterpoints to a fad (for example); or the skittering groovy Shadow At Night (Notes From A Quarry) that reminded me of Zappa and then builds and weaves its own magic. An album that works very well.

Jeremy Keens, Ampersand etc. ¬es 05_5

Sands-Zine - Semplice e senza trope pretese x sergio eletto

Da “Staring At The Sun”, passando per “Syntaxis” e sino ai giorni nostri con “III”, i Cosmologic hanno raggiunto un discreto riscontro di critica e di pubblico per opera del proprio mood: puntato a direzionare le proprie vibrazioni verso la scena indipendente del jazz di Chicago per trovare nei famigerati Vardermark 5 il punto più alto di comunione.
Anche “III” si vede fresco di stampa per la Circumvention, label d’improvvisata, nel quale interno orbitano due terzi del combo stesso e che ricordiamo per la forte amicizia stretta con il collettivo sperimentale extra-large Trummerflora*.
La formazione che incontriamo al momento è sempre la stessa, ossia quella del quartetto composto da Jason Robinson, Michael Dessen, Scott Walton e Nathan Hubbard, ma vede una lieve alterazione attraverso gli sporadici contributi alle chitarre versati alla bisogna da Al Scholl.
Lo scenario aperto da X Marks The Spot mette d’accordo diversi canovacci dell'era New Thing: il ritmo ed il blues di Charles Mingus, la raffinata scompostezza di Eric Dolphy, la delicatezza di Andrew Hill.
Una predisposizione, questa, riscontrata con solerzia durante la parte iniziale di “III” ma dove parallelamente pongono il loro artiglio anche una serie di nebulosi contributi con cui l’ensemble sfoggia la propria dimestichezza nel dialogare con suoni di fattura più propriamente contemporanea. Ad esempio, nel richiamare il brano di apertura, viene da evidenziare la sottile filigrana elettronica posta da filtro al drumming di Hubbard e la patinatura ovattata che ne (fuori)esce; Shadows at Night (Notes From a Quarry) è una lunga marcia ai cui estremi troviamo incastonati attimi di puro swing, mentre nel suo interno fanno capolinea una massiccia dose di esercizi free-form.
Da segnalare sono i deliziosi inserti jazzy delle corde di Scholl, i quali più di una volta si faranno osservare con meraviglia per le ammiccanti soluzioni (ri)cercate.
Septurnal Spell, a dispetto dei precedenti, si veste di un’anima ancor più spumeggiante, dove l’armonia imperante si abbiglia senza troppe remore di tratti somatici, velatamente, caraibici. Il brano è firmato da Dessen e mostra quanto nei Cosmologic viva un’anima eterogenea, facendo risultare la scrittura di quest’ultimo decisamente opposta a quella di Hubbard e Robinson (gli altri intestatari delle composizioni). Put Some Butter On It, dedicato a Malachi Favors, è un lento assaggio di solo contrabbasso, in cui i venti lontani della gloriosa AACM sciorinano di pari passo alla scrittura ‘ascetica’ di Don Cherry. Le pulsioni introspettive, qui ritrovate, fanno da preludio alla lenta e raffinata apertura di Indianhead Canyon, un brano il cui movimento si aziona gradualmente e dove viene sfoderata l’anima più collettivista e free del quartetto.
Proseguendo avanti, l’ascolto del cd presenta sempre più movimentazioni radicali: una tendenza che si riscontra con netto vigore sia in The Wrangler, che dentro Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. Ancora una volta vengono cambiate la carte in tavole ed a concludere il tragitto sono le smussature in salsa strange rock di Blacon: un calderone in cui convivono Frank Zappa, languidi wah-wah (della chitarra) ed una ritmica che senza troppa vergogna corteggia istanze drum ‘n’ bass.
Senza troppe pretese i Cosmologic con il loro carattere solare costruiscono un lavoro in cui il jazz è solo la base di partenza per incontrare forme ed esperienze molteplici. Vi consiglio di riservare un ascolto per la primavera che verrà, “III” potrebbe essere la colonna sonora ideale per trascorrere giornate spensierate al cospetto di sole tiepido e tonificante.

* del collettivo Trummerflora è presente una recensione nell’apposito archivio.

A small web translation from Sherlock: Without too many pretensions the Cosmologic with their solar character constructs a job in which the jazz it is only the line of departure in order to meet multiple shapes and experiences. You council to reserve I listen for the spring that will come, "III" could be the ideal sonorous column in order to pass days spensierate in the presence of lukewarm sun and being strengthened.

Cosmologic III (Circumvention)
Modern jazz quartet (occasionally a quintet) let by Nathan Hubbard, Michael Dessen and Jason Robinson. Maybe that's too many leaders, but they all contribute songs. The extremely democratic doling out of songs and solo time also carries over into the nicely balanced feel of the group. The only thing that dominates is the music--and this is very good music. - Aiding And Abbetting
For Europeans it sometimes looks as if all American jazz and improvised music comes from New York City and the NY area. Nevertheless, also at the West-Coast they make extremely nice music. Proof are the regular releases on the Nine Winds label (label well known for Jazzflits readers). The quartet Cosmologic from San Diego also makes fresh and exciting music. They combine the best elements from composed jazz and free improvised music into a total own sound. Although the music on this 3rd CD (Circumvention Music) is reasonable complex from time to time (with the necessary polyrhythmic and contra point), everything is very accessible thanks to a certain dance feel. The melodic groove that bassist Scott Walton and drummer Nathan Hubbard set up in many pieces, sometimes reminds at the work of Dave Holland. That all four of the musicians (who without any doubt form a collective) have a wonderful sound on their instruments is an extra. The frontline from tenor saxophone (Jason Robinson) and trombone (Michael Dessen) sounds perfectly together, and in the bass intro from ‘Indianhead Canyon’ Walton makes his strings sing on a majestic way. Guest guitarist Al Scholl understands the intentions of the group perfectly, and he’s fitting perfectly in the band.
Herman te Loo -
tech info/recording thoughts
III took even longer to record than Rivulet, starting in February of 2004 and ending in June of 2005. The first session was in Tucson Arizona and the following sessions were in San Diego CA. In general, the recording uses my red Tama kit (see below for exact set-up) with the Cosmo add-ons - a 12" snare left of the hihat, a cowbell pedal, a 20" tam tam to the right of the kit. There were several new things for this recording - toy glockenspiel, a marimba, and a 18" floor tom. In addition to all of this, i had my percussion box and swapped out cymbals for different tunes, adding extra crashes, splashes and bell cymbals depending on my general concept for the piece (check out some pics here). Most of the sessions were engineered by myself, James Burton helped out on our mammoth two day session in june of 2004. After tracking, mixing began, with the use of overdubbing and processing as a compositional process used for several tracks. This included myself and Jason Robinson overdubbing solos on the drum'n'bass inspired opener x marks the spot (i used a small kit - 16" kick, 12" main snare, 10" side snare, hihats, a few splashes), extreme processing of room mics and use of field recordings on indianhead canyon, overdubbing individual parts to thicken and add depth on blacon (beyond the divide) and other possibilities. This is also the first Cosmologic recording to feature a solo track - in this case, Scott Waltons beautiful performance of my humble tribute to Malachi Favors, put some butter on it. After mixing was finished, we decided track order, Steve Langdon mastered the CD and Andrew West added his (as usual) amazing artwork.