Committed to “making cool jazz hot again,” Octobop, performing November 30 at the Hilton San Jose, is a locally-based, world-class octet with a penchant for playing the subdued, West Coast style that artists like Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers and Chet Baker made popular in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“Cool jazz is very accessible,” says Geoff Roach, saxophonist and bandleader of Octobop and former CEO and executive director of San Jose Jazz. “It fits in with the California vibe. People tell me, ‘I don’t like jazz but I like your music.’”

Founded in 1999, Octobop has an unusual lineup of instruments: bass, vibes, guitar, sax, flute, drums, trombone and trumpet. The combination lends itself to compositional spaciousness and requires that the musicians be in top form.

“A group this size, everybody gets a chance to play and there’s no place to hide,” says Roach. “It’s inherently more open and you can do a lot of interesting things with the musical colors and textures.”

Roach explains that there’s a lot of structure to cool jazz and that its pioneers were accomplished composers as well as being performing artists. But he stresses that improvisation is the heart of jazz.

“Cool jazz is a little more structured than guys just playing tunes out of their head,” he says, but every chart’s got improv in it. We’ve got a great structure, but we’re trying to communicate with people; create an emotion.”

Touting the benefits of playing jazz, Roach points out that it teaches you the skills of collaboration, listening and getting out of a jam. “If you’re improvising and playing with a bunch of people, they’re going to be feeding you clues and you’re feeding them clues and you have to be listening,” he says. “And when things go bad [he lists drummers dropping sticks, someone coming in in the wrong key and improvisations that ‘run off a cliff’ as possible scenarios], you’ve got to be able to deal with it.”

Celebrated locally and internationally, Octobop is a known entity in the jazz world. It’s fourth CD, Very Early, peaked at #4 on the CMJ jazz chart, just below Norah Jones. “Not many people in the Bay Area can point to that kind of success,” says Roach.