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2 Quartets on We Jazz Records


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Finnish label We Jazz Records is back with two quartet recordings. Both are intriguing in their respective ways, which differ from each other in almost every aspect. Let's have a closer look...

Otis Sandsjö
Y-Otis 2
We Jazz Records

Berlin-based, Swedish-native saxophonist Otis Sandsjö's sophomore album and second stance under the Y-Otis moniker picks up where the debut left off, presenting a more developed mix of choppy hip-hop rhythms wrapped in flamboyant sound design and stylish jazz lingo. Once again, Sandsjö is joined by renowned Petter Eldh on bass and drummer Tilo Weber, while Austrian pianist Elias Stemeseder is replaced by equally skilled Dan Nicholls, who adds a fair share of quirky modular synth stunts and sample tricks to an eclectic set of beat-driven jazz. In its funkiest moments, the record channels the neo-retro soul movement Thundercat recently introduced into modern mainstream. But beats rarely remain straight on Y-Otis 2 and the different layers of sonic depth are everything but mainstream-suitable, setting the project apart from most music out there today.

Behind the exuberant tapestries of sound and confident melodic design lies subtle instrumental detail, represented by elegantly syncopated and interlocked voice-leading, as well as the respective musicians' adroit individual performances. The players are after all each highly practiced in jazz' tradition, which they demonstrate in the odd curved line filling an undefined bar between beats. Otherwise their quality shows in originality and keeping a tight rhythm. While cuts like "Tremendoce" or "Abysmal" have a more direct approach, comprised of catchy rifs and hip electronic production trickery, titles like "Koppom" or "Ity Bity" exhibit a rather slow-burning quality—their virtue lying in the subtle textural shifts and trippy soundscapes provoking a psychedelic flair. A more then dignified follow-up, Y-Otis 2 gives us a great look at where jazz, funk and hip-hop can go, when in the hands of real talent.

We Jazz Records

Exchange the bass for a cello, swap out the keys for a viola and voilà, the lineup of Ainon, the newest addition to the We Jazz label, which continues to introduce Finland's freshest talent to the world. Ainon is made up of Aino Juutlainen on cello, Satu-Maja Aalto on violin and viola, Suvi Linnovaara alternating between sax, clarinet and flute and last but not least Joonas Leppänen on drums. Besides being a quartet however, Ainon has very little in common with above discussed project. The strings evoke a strong chamber music quality. Instead of being playful, the melodies create a dark and ominous mood, often based in the love of dissonance that tends to conceal the different sheets' tonality.

Textural flageolet brushes paired with sparse cymbal hits and sudden explosions of color and tone dominate the eleven songs, whose deconstructed built is animated by the detailed conversational manner in which the instruments communicate with each other. Whether it be the slow crescendoing staccato plucks and clarinet puffs trading glances with arco-sighs on "Obscure Dreams" or an elegantly dotted build-up tastefully segueing into a swinging walking-bass section on the title track, Ainon's compositions are filled with a rare sense of sophistication that combines the playful elements of jazz with the weightier approach of classical music seamlessly. With "Schön Berg," the quartet's classical vein is revealed in name, too. While some of the record's more dissonant pieces do show strong parallels to the twelve-tone technique Arnold Schönberg pioneered, the cluster harmonies and open structures found on "The Bird Does Not Fly" or "Anaesthesia" appear more reminiscent of the polytonal tendencies found with impressionist composers, such as Maurice Ravel. No matter the point of reference, Ainon's debut effort, Drought, is a highly original and conceptually successful offering either way.

Tracks and Personnel

Y-Otis 2

Tracks: Waldo; Tremendoce; Misters; Abysmal; Koppom; Ity Bity; Sapiens; Bobby; Fruchtling; Atombahn.

Personnel: Otis Sandsjö: saxophone; Petter Eldh: electric bass; Dan Nicholls: synths; Tilo Weber: drums; Lucy Railton: cello; Ruhi-Deniz Erdogan: trumpet; Jonas Kullhammar: flute; Per Johansson: flute.


Tracks: Kruununhaka; Anaesthesia; Drought; Spell I; The Bird Does Not Fly; Obscure Dreams; Spell II; Grannies & Seagulls; Schön Berg; O; Time Remembered.

Personnel: Aino Juutilainen: cello; Satu-Maija Aalto: violin & viola; Suvi Linnovaara: saxophone, clarinet & flute; Joonas Leppänen: drums.

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