When it comes to jazz, there’s out and then there’s out. The latter is wonderful and worth exploring, but by design, it’s not for everyone. If you want a taste of wildness without going as far as, say, Dave Burrell’s Echo, there are many records that merely approach the edge. First, absorb the classic examples, like Jackie McLean’s Destination: Out!, Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, and Alice Coltrane’s Ptah, the El Daoud. Then, if you want to hear a contemporary example of that middle ground, check out the new Brooklyn trio Ocelot.
Ocelot’s self-titled debut is both meditative and uneasy. Each member of the group is notable for other outlets: pianist Cat Toren leads the roiling and socially urgent quintet Human Kind, saxophonist Yuma Uesaka has played with modern greats like Anna Webber and Jeff Lederer, and Colin Hinton drums in avant-garde acts like Simulacra and Glassbath. Together, they have an excellent sense of chemistry and space, never bashing into each other or hogging the soundfield.
After Toren’s quietly menacing opening theme to “Daimon II,” Ocelot unfurls patiently, gracefully, and occasionally chaotically. The best moments are when the band hangs beatlessly in the ether, such as on “Sequestration.” Overall, the closest analog is probably Shinya Fukumori Trio’s 2018 triumph on ECM, For 2 Akis. But unlike that record, Ocelot relies less on moments of sublime melodic ascent and more on rattling sabers. Still, this three-way conversation—in equal parts tranquil, pensive, and agitated—is absolutely worth hearing.