Toren/Uesaka/Hinton

Ocelot
577 Records 6859

By Ken Waxman

A program of carefully assembled small group jazz/improve, Ocelot features equitable playing and composing from Vancouver pianist Cat Toren, British-born reedist Yuma Uesaka 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 plus brief background piano tinkles. Torens’ “Anemone” is like that, as slow-moving piano chords brush against narrow clarinet trills. Still other compositions such as the pianist’s “Crocus” supplement the formal and near-Impressionistic unrolling of patterning keyboard echoes backed by metronomic drum beats, 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 rat-tat-tat 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,

Ocelot members set up these creative parameters and then emphasize one, another 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 band is named.

—For MusicWorks Spring/Summer 2021