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A New Generation of Jazz 

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.

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