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San Francisco’s What We Live eschews the blustery excess characterizing much of today’s East Coast free jazz, opting for a cooler, quieter, more restrained approach to improvisation. Perhaps the difference is in how the band members listen to each other: Bassist Lisle Ellis, saxophonist Larry Ochs (who is also a member of the Rova Saxophone Quartet), and drummer Donald Robinson aspire to the musical and political ideals of collective improvisation and participatory democracy. The result is a distinctive group voice that is greater than the sum of its parts. Ellis and Robinson symbiotically simmer and swing, dropping abstract rhythms while sharing equal compositional space with Ochs’ streams of tenor and sopranino melodies. Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Edgar Varese and Jimi Hendrix, What We Live sounds healthily preoccupied with texture and structure and is a true treasure in contemporary music. The group performs at 8 p.m. at George Washington University’s Phillips Hall, in Room B-120, 801 22nd St. NW. $10. (703) 243-3787. (Brent Burton)