Press - 2000-2005

Music Works - The Guelph Jazz Festival. Guelph, Ontario. September 7–11 2005 04/11/2006 By Johannes Völz

"This paved the way for the most exhilarating band performance of the entire five days, by Cosmologic from San Diego. At times showing a deep fascination with Dave Holland's rhythmic structures and counterpoint improvisations, at times going far further outside, suspending harmony and rhythm entirely, Cosmologic covered a wide range, from intense grooves to raspy textures, all within a few measures. Having just released its third CD on the small California label Circumvention, Cosmologic, it seems safe to predict, has wider attention awaiting it in the future."

Sowing the Seeds - The Trummerflora keeps growing
"Trummerflora" is a German term used to describe the growth of an ecosystem in a wasteland full of debris (rubble plants and trees). It's a brilliantly appropriate name for a group of artists that has shaken up the American cultural underground and continues to do so either as a collective or by the actions of its individual members.
One of the places to meet and exchange thoughts on stage are the regular "Other ideas"-evenings at the Alta Voz in Downton San Diego. Here, Jazz and Rock, Experimental Sound Scapes and Songs, Electronics and Acoustic Instruments go on an exciting journey each time around. Things won't be any different for the next two concerts.
First off, there's the Curtis Glatter / Nathan Hubbard Duo. Both composers and percussionists, their collaboration aims to use electronically edited drum sounds to build aural land scapes. Having said this, maybe the word "aural" is already misguiding, as they put special emphasis on the fact that their work is inspired by film makers such as Cocteau and Dreyer. Which is not to say that this another of those "sound track for the mind"-projects. Rather, some of the duos' favourite movies serve as an aesthetic inspiration, guiding the compositional process and injecting it with freshness and momentum.
Then, keep your eyes and ears open for Brain Killer, a trio that will add Mark Dresser to its ranks for a night of wild improvisation. Take the stylistic ingredients we mentioned from the outset, add to that classical music and ethnic elements and you still only have a faint clue as to what might happen.
The Glatter/Hubbard Duo are to perform on September 29th and Brain Killer are to be appearing on October 9th. Which gives you plenty of time to make room in your agenda. April 19–24, 2005 in Long Beach , CA By Greggory Moore

I don't know if the Kris Tiner/Noah Phillips/Nathan Hubbard Trio (trumpet, electric guitar, and idiosyncratic drum set with a gaggle of metallic percussion) is to be a permanent unit (this was their first time playing together), but the best word I have to express my feeling during their two improvisations is delight. All three exhibited the most meticulous attention to detail in both the sounds they coaxed from their respective instruments and their part in the whole being created moment by moment. Their constant and frenetic alterations (the constant maneuverings of trumpet bell, the specific makeup of a distortion wash, the pressing and bowing of a splash pressed against the head and rim of a floor tom) were always playful scurries, no matter how unorthodox and jagged. I wouldn't need a wider range of diversity from these guys any more than I do from The Strokes.

LA WEEKLY - CALENDAR * PICKS OF THE WEEK - Dec. 31, 2004 - Jan. 6, 2005 - Ben Goldberg Ensemble/Erik Griswold Trio

Get your year off to a dry, pessimistic, darkly humorous start with Ben Goldberg, a Bay Area clarinetist with a penchant for jagged concepts, grainy textures and avant-klezmer, leading a killer combo that's just recorded a Steve Lacy tribute: Carla Kihlstedt (viola), Rob Sudduth (tenor), Devin Hoff (bass) and Ches Smith (drums). Plus, the truly wondrous San Diegans Scott Walton (bass) and Nathan Hubbard (percussion) support the prepared piano of Australia's Erik Griswold. At the Center for the Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; Sun., Jan. 2, 7 p.m.; $10, $5 students & seniors. (626) 795-4989. -Greg Burk

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 2/6/2004

Cosmologic's experimental breed of improv jazz grooves
By Anthony Broadman

Is Cosmologic the shape of jazz to come?
"There are a lot of shapes right now," says Jason Robinson, the San Diego-avant jazz group's saxophonist. "I don't think what we're doing is ever going to be something that Blue Note picks up."
Blue Note would be missing the beat.
Cosmologic catches you off- guard - avant jazz isn't supposed to groove like this. Especially in sunny Southern California.
But from the hard-driving first track on "Syntaxis," recorded live in 2002, the band of pedigreed musicians blow hot and crazy over nasty little rhythms.
Oddly, for improvisational brass jazz, you can't help but move.
The four-man incarnation of Cosmologic plays today at 8 p.m. at Mat Bevel Institute, 530 N. Stone Ave.
"Groove's a big part of what we do," said Robinson, 28. "Groove to me is very much about the body. So the things that Cosmologic does - although we get out there pretty quick - are still so rooted in the body."
The result is a heady blend of free-squeal, precarious trombone-sax melodies and rhythm you can set your biological clock by. "It's not over-intellectual," Robinson, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California-San Diego, says accurately. "It's meant to be something you feel in your body."
The band started out more than five years ago playing the compositions of jazz innovator Ornette Coleman at a weekly gig in San Diego.
They played 52 shows at the Galoka Jazz Scene and then recorded their original tunes - explosive, driving originals.
"So although we come from Ornette and Eric Dolphy and Coltrane, we pretty much play original material," Robinson noted.
On the surface, San Diego seems a strange place for Cosmologic. But Robinson, who is involved with scenes up the coast and elsewhere, says the region is fertile for experimental music.
That's due in part to George Lewis. He is the trombonist, composer, theorist, 2002 MacArthur Fellow and UCSD music professor with whom Robinson and other Cosmologic players have studied. He's a "huge influence" to the band, Robinson said.
But San Diego won't host the next Cosmologic recording session.
Tucson will.
The band plans to record their show tonight and stay on at the Bevel Institute to make their next record.


CityBeat fall 2003? who knows.....the start of CB's strange fixation on labelling anything outside their comfort zone "weird"....

Circumvention Music jumpstarts
San Diego’s improv music scene
by Caley Cook

A trumpet shrieks through a speaker propped up against the wall.


Breeep… Breeeeep!!

Then, just a few minutes after I enter the room and sit in a comfy rolling chair, a saxophone oozes from one note of sex-crazed, humping weakness to another, lodging itself soundly into the mood of the evening.

This is an icebreaker—done freewheeling improv-jazz-style—and it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.

Maybe it’s not that Nathan Hubbard and Jason Robinson’s music is so weird, per say. It’s just that it’s set up within such aching normality.

Leaning against the side of the building that houses the Trummerflora performance space in Mission Hills, Hubbard is lipping his beer while Robinson finishes up a conversation on his cell phone. It’s a strictly normal scene in the Average American Joe sense, punctuated by the normal street noise from Washington Ave. and the normal suits walking home from their normal day at their normal offices.

Perhaps its this aberration among the routine that makes the music so abnormal. Gone are the fence-hugging, chain-smoking, bar-doddling contradictions of normal American rock. Gone are the images of average jazz radio temptresses donning the requisite black dress and the usual strappy shoes. Gone are the broken-home, road-poet jazz stereotypes.

Left in this vacated place is La Jolla-based Circumvention Music and its two freewheeling, albeit normal-looking cohorts.

“We’re a big paradox,” Robinson chuckles. “We love this music and we’re trying to build an audience in San Diego, but people have to hear it first.”

Hubbard and Robinson are the lifeblood of the improvisational and experimental music that circulates in San Diego. The music is disseminated by Trummerflora, a performance collective, and through Circumvention and Accretions, the record labels. Through all three parades an endless cast of working ensembles and their players: Cosmologic, Donkey, Return to One, Skeleton Key Orchestra and Wormhole to name very few.

The musicians—Hubbard, Robinson, Hans Fjellestad, Robert Montoya, Gustavo Aguilar, Michael Dessen, Marcelo Radulovich, Marcos Fernandes and infinite others—make up the revolving Mickey Mouse Club of the San Diego improvisational music scene. Hubbard is head mouse.

In 1998, Hubbard surfaced with his own saxophone-centered solo project and had nowhere to release it. In a no-risk jazz music industry—both locally and nationally—he says, creation gets caught up in the cogs of “market research.” What results are best-of albums that recycle the same old John Coltrane hits year after year. As good as those hits sound, Hubbard wanted to give rise to an outlet for creative music to “circumvent” the regular market cycle—thus, Circumvention Music was born.

When Robinson moved to San Diego to continue his music education at UCSD—he is currently finishing a dissertation for his doctorate—he met Hubbard, a drummer, and immediately formed a musical bond in the band Cosmologic. This music, they say, is all about the bonds it creates.

“People see this music as an anti-social kind of thing from the ivory tower above,” says Robinson, “but this sound is based on interaction.”

“This is a social sound,” agrees Hubbard. “All we want to do is create a documentation of being in one specific place at one specific time, and there are so many things that are just waiting to be documented.”

The current surroundings of the Trummerflora performance space have more of a mildewed college-theater feel than the pulsating musical freeway that it really is. “It’s hard to believe that there is a vibrant concert series based in this room,” Robinson admits.

But the artist-run structure of Circumvention and their dedication to supporting and publishing improvised music is more than enough motivation to create something new each day, say its directors. The Circumvention website lists seven releases spanning just a few months.

Hubbard seemingly never gets tired of drumming on many of these releases. On disc after disc he is wailing the crap out of all sorts of percussive devices. The soles of his shoes are even worn to a thin round.

“I feel very fortunate to be part of the San Diego scene,” says Robinson. “Right now, there is so much happening and everyone involved in Circumvention or Accretions or Trummerflora is individually and in their own right very serious about this music and what they are creating.”

“You can’t put this stuff on a record label,” continues Hubbard. “The [record executives] would be tapping the table and saying, ‘Soooo, where’s the hit?’”

“This is such a labor of love,” says Robinson. “Money doesn’t enter the picture.”

You have to love this music to make it. Rushing and flowing from one note to the next, three or four or five instruments often pile on top of each other. Sax and trombone and bass and bells and drums and flute and shakers and electronics and guitar and trumpet and piano all leap into the air headfirst and land, sprawled out in a huge heap, just waiting for someone to mentally organize their mess.

This music is weird, without a doubt. But the weirdest thing about it isn’t the beats or the instruments or the timing or the volume or even its players. The weirdest thing about the whole scene is that this music is flourishing in San Diego and nary a soul knows about it.

Visit or


(Concert Review, Curtis Glatter) - Skeleton Key Orchestra, SUNDAY 29, DIZZY'S, SAN DIEGO, CA. The evening fierce with nostalgia as I entered Dizzy's in downtown San Diego. The nostalgia came by way of seeing numerous concerts that attracted me enough to remain grounded in San Diego. As I entered the venue, the crowd was friendly and a few were aware of my entrance in the doorway but most of the attention was focused on the stage as onlookers watched dozens of musicians chiding each as they assembled before the audience. There were smiles and laughs tossed around between several musicians and some were practicing their music or running through some scales.

As Nathan Hubbard (composer and conductor for the Skeleton Key Orchestra) ascended the stairs to step foot on the stage, there was a lull in the crowd and the musicians straightened their backs and focused on his gestures. I have heard S.K.O. do some very rambunctious and dissonant music in the past, so it was surprising to hear them begin with the ensemble gliding through "Sand, Wind and the Vast Pacific Ocean". I had also heard the adventurous music of the San Diego based quartets Cosmologic and Return to One (both ensembles that Hubbard performs in) prior to this evening's performance and it appeared that members from both ensembles were gathered to perform the music written by Hubbard. As I sat listening with a smile on my face I began thinking to myself, "This music is MUSIC. Period. No need to slap a label on it." Tonight the idea was presented to me that a "junk percussion" solo was as relevant as a violin solo. I was also excited by the fact that all of the soloists were assertive and soloists also appeared to be democratically represented regardless of their instrument. While listening to "Next Love" and "Making My Way Thru It," it appeared that the compositions were a "statement" about constructing and deconstructing musically notated charts, improvising on themes and constructing tone clusters while retaining tenderness and unapologetic honesty in the music.

After the evenings intermission it seemed to me that Hubbard remained very humble and usually remained behind the drum kit while occasionally stepping to the podium as a part-time conductor. From "Sleeping Against Other Warnings" to "Is that you (Earl)?," Hubbard's signature sound blended a wide range of musical colors, textures and memorable lyrical melodies. The organic growth of Hubbard's compositions did not rely on doubling parts or adding frivolous accents and layers to the delicate melodies and rhythms. Hubbard's music was crafted and his signature was evident from the first note played by the ensemble. Since I had witnessed many Cosmologic and R.T.O. performances in the past, it was refreshing to hear that the orchestral music was more of an evolution of these "smaller group" ideas rather than just an event programmed around common big band charts beefed up from jazz "lead sheets." Hubbard's arching structures and part writing added dense dimensions to his lyrical melodic writing while allowing the music to remain clear and concise. To the experienced listener I think the music also struck a nerve congruent to Anthony Braxton, Pierre Favre and Max Roach. Like Hubbard's predecessors, the compositions took the time to bravely explore the improvisational elements while crossing over from "chamber jazz music" to "avant-noise". The various soloists and improvised duos and trios exhibited their instrumental prowess remaining ever-conscious of each others musical statements by creating "MUSIC."

Although I had seen Hubbard perform in numerous ensembles in the past four years, I think that the Skeleton Key Orchestra took some chances and broke down a few musical boundaries while drawing from a wide range of jazz influences. For example, the members of the ensemble were not afraid to scream through the wind instruments and drummers were not afraid to use their bare hands and that is something rare to see among orchestral musicians. If the listener is brave and has ears brave enough to get around tone clusters and large ensemble improvisations then this music should enter the ears and hearts when (and if) they are willing to listen to a composer wading in an orchestral ocean with percussion mallets, baton, pen and staff paper in hand. * Curtis Glatter/San Diego New Music Newsletter-May 2003


APRIL 3, 2003 : A New Generation of Jazz - By GENE ARMSTRONG Tucson Weekly

The Zeitgeist, the presenting organization responsible for the regular Jazz at the Institute series, battles a handful of problems plaguing modern-day jazz.
First, it battles a general reluctance among listeners to take a chance on adventurous music-making. It also has to deal with the increasing superficiality of contemporary pop music, not to mention the unfortunate prevalence of commercial/lite jazz.

Therefore, just as it is heartening to see Generation Y fans and younger shelling out their hard-earned bucks for a folding chair at one the Zeitgeist's six or eight concerts a year, it is refreshing to hear the young San Diego quartet Return to One's enthusiastic embrace of improvisational jazz unfettered by convention or tradition.

Return to One will perform on Friday, April 4, among the kinetic sculptures and unusual, colorful art installations at the Mat Bevel Institute.

The quartet of woodwinds players Lee Elderton and Ward Baxter, bassist Josh Jones and drummer-composer Nathan Hubbard will play what its members call "adventurous free improvisation that should appeal to listeners who want to be taken to new places."

The young lions in this group--all of whom look safely under the age of 30--also incorporate the use of other instruments (electronic effects, samplers, vibes, marimba, piano, flute, tape loops, found objects and voices) and call on the jazz tradition, free improvisation, electronica and world music with origins in Indonesia, West Africa, Cuba, Brazil and the Balkans.

The band primarily plays the original compositions of Hubbard, although its repertoire also includes the work of Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton and Thelonious Monk, as well as traditional Klezmer tunes. The kids know their jazz history.

The 4-year-old Return to One so far has released through its Circumvention Music label three albums: Promises in 1999, Hopes and Dreams the following year and the ambitious, excellent double-CD set Firecliffs in 2001. The pieces of music on these recordings can be raucous and "out" or crystalline and calm, but they always display a knotty, dense and intelligent compositional point of view, as well as many opportunities for fiery excursions of improvisation.

For those wishing to explore the word of Return to One further, Hubbard released a solo album, Born on Tuesday, last year. He and Elderton also perform as a raw-boned sax 'n' drums partnership, which has been documented on a 2000 album of duets.


another fine showing by the SD press........

Hold the phone — here comes the ear candy
Village News — June 21, 2000

What does an avant-garde audience look like?

Well, a surprisingly large and diverse group paid $15 (members $13) to hear something billed as "Noise at the Library" featuring the avant-garde jazz of a talented new band called Cosmologic at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., on Sunday, May 14.

Among them was a very soberly dressed man who, despite his conservative haircut, had somehow cultivated the lateral growth from each of his ears to extend a full inch and a quarter over both shoulders - possibly a dadaist fashion statement.

He sat like an installation at the center of the front row beside a very bored-looking little boy whom he needed to physically dissuade from climbing backwards out of his seat whenever dissonant trombones started blaring two yards away.

Then there was the elderly woman rolling her eyes and tsking as if none of the concert met her expectation of music. But even she entered into the avant-garde spirit when her cell phone started to ring during one composition and she allowed its chirrup to mingle with the more conventional instruments for a while before turning it off.

Thankfully, none of these elements returned from the intermission, where the wine was free and Cosmologic's CDs were for sale at the discounted price of $5.

The actual band had been formed only eight months previously and, with the possible exception of drummer Nathan Hubbard, is entirely a product of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Trombonist Michael Dessen and bassist Scott Walton are both UCSD doctoral students. Jason Robins, tenor sax, teaches jazz theory and saxophone at UCSD. On this occasion they were joined by a special guest: the trombonist George Lewis, UCSD's very distinguished professor of music.

"It's so generous of George that he's actually willing to play with us," an overly modest Dessen said.

The concert was sponsored by San Diego New Music and the Athenaeum to launch Cosmologic's debut CD, of entirely original compositions, entitled "Staring at the Sun," an ironically unoriginal title already used by pop groups such as Uniform Choice and U2.

The set opened with Eric Dolphy's Monkish 1964 composition, the harsh, dissonant, slightly aggressive sounding "Hat and Beard." Next came an interpretation of Ornette Coleman's "Peace," in which Walton bowed his bass with superb lyricism and Dessen's trombone and Robinson's sax harmonized soulfully together.

Lewis joined the band to play the fast and furious "Mountains and Water" and was introduced by its composer, Dessen. "This is to warm George up." Lewis' trombone nimbly negotiated the work while Dessen, for the most part, played cowbell. It was Robinson who warmed up most, however blowing the high notes out of his sax until this face shone scarlet and all the veins showed on his neck.

After that the Dave Holland composition "Four Winds" didn't seem so avant garde at all. Robinson improvised a cool line over Hubbard's drums and Walton's bass. It might almost have been a straight-ahead jazz set complete with a conventional if wonderfully triumphant chorus when, briefly, the three horns played in unison.

Walton produced a fine range of tones on the bass, at times using his bow to make a sound reminscent of whale song. Then Lewis' trombone came in, scrubbing up and down furiously and taking it back "out there" before the great reassuring three-horn chorus wrapped it up.

More tracks from the CD followed the interval: Robinson's "Hell in Hat Yai" (named after a city in South East Asia) was evocative enough to be a film score. Another Robinson composition, "CT" (dedicated to controversial pianist/composer Cecil Taylor), opened with bass and percussion until Robinson and Lewis bubbled up with sax and trombone to be joined by Dessen in between. This dissolved into some interesting groaning trombone effects, as if emulating a dozen or so flatulent Tibetan monks, before taking off into clearer tones and a heroic drum solo from Hubbard.

Hubbard's free-jazz poem, "Shrouded over with Fog," (subtitled, "As if the World Were About to End") starts with a spooky industrial sound. Here a muted Lewis contributed his technique of wobbling his chops from side to side at the mouthpiece and alternating a vibrato trombone while slapping the bell with his hand through the slide.

Gently wailing trombones followed with a rendition of Ishmael Wadada Lew Smith's "Sincerity (Parts I & II) for Harumi." The evening concluded with Lewis himself taking the solo lead for his own very rhythmic composition, "Ring Shout Ramble" without a rhythm section. Hubbard and Walton soon contributed drums and bass respectively. A great dramatic chorus of three horns handed the them to Walton for a solo. The ensemble then dropped back to a more ostentatiously free-jazz tempo and Hubbard's cowbell accompanied Walton's first-rate solo on the upper register on the bass.

Those attending without unmuted cell phones and uncomfortable kids seemed to enjoy the evening immensely. Watch the Web page for further outings of Cosmologic.

The Athenaeum's summer jazz series presents the Ralph Moore Quartet on July 1; the Claudia Villela Quartet on July 6; Mundell Lowe, Herb Ellis and Bob Magnusson on July 13 (already sold out) and the Dave Friesen Trio on July 20. For tickets and information call (858) 454-5872.