A program of carefully assembled small-group jazz and improv, Ocelot, the eponymous debut from the new trio Ocelot, features playing and composing by British-born reedist Yuma Uesaka, Vancouver pianist Cat Toren, and American percussionist Colin Hinton. Throughout, the near-gossamer sheen of some tunes often rolls back to reveal durable underpinnings.
Spunky or subtle, the CD’s eight tracks are split between those two poles. Some, like Hinton’s “Sequestration,” are fixed and horizontal, based around bass-clarinet buzzes and flutters and brief background piano tinkles. Toren’s “Anemone” is like that too, as slow-moving piano chords brush against narrow clarinet trills. Likewise, the pianist’s “Crocus” supplements the formal and near-Impressionistic unrolling of patterning keyboard echoes, backed by metronomic drumbeats, with a coda of souped-up percussion paradiddles and strained saxophone slurs.
In contrast, tracks like Uesaka’s “Iterations 1” and “Post” play up energy and flash by moving quickly and vigorously. With keyboard clips and reed bites at the top, the former tune advances to irregularly sputtered saxophone split tones and rocking piano pumps. “Post” takes off prestissimo with ratatat drumming, crisp staccato clips from the pianist that pile notes upon notes and reed bites that confirm the rasping theme. Respite comes at the end, though, as bell-tree shakes and low-pitched piano rumbles direct the line back to a simple narrative,
The group members set up these creative parameters and then emphasize one or the other—or, adroitly, both—during various sequences. What that means is that this now Brooklyn-based trio has produced music as slinky, efficient, and distinctive as the American wild cat for which the album is named.