Otis Sandsjö ‘Y-OTIS 2’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 5/5

Saxophonist Otis Sandsjö releases his new album ‘Y-OTIS 2’ through Helsinki’s revered We Jazz record label. And the fact that ‘Y-OTIS 2’ marks only the second solo album for the Swedish, but now Berlin-based, musician seems somewhat surprising when you consider how many bands and projects that Sandsjö has been a part of as an indispensable contributor. Sandsjö’s debut album, ‘Y-OTIS’, was only released two years prior (2018, again through We Jazz) and work since then has continued to be consistent. Appearing as part of the line-up for drummer Christian Lilinger’s ‘The Meinl Session’, Sandsjö also appeared on two songs for Matt Calvert’s ‘Typewritten’, and then, of course, there’s his erstwhile contributions to Petter Eldh’s Koma Saxo project which sits incredibly high amongst We Jazz albums having only been released in 2019.

The chemistry between Sandsjö and bassist Eldh warrants special mention as their incredible collaborations have really birthed some fantastic music. With Eldh serving as the producer, as well as bassist for the ensemble, for ‘Y-OTIS’ and ‘Y-OTIS 2’, Koma Saxo really serves as an awesome extension to the groundwork masterfully laid out through Sandsjö’s debut. Eldh’s impassioned production across all three projects – heavily inspired by his love of 1990s hip-hop and groups like A Tribe Called Quest – has really found the perfect partner in Sandsjö. So much so that this two man band deliver an outstanding backing to vocalist Lucia Cadotsch’s hauntingly brilliant and musically dynamic album, ‘Speak Low’ (2016).

For ‘Y-OTIS 2’, Sandsjö has assembled a well-versed and inspired band featuring a mix of returning members from the new album’s predecessor and other long-term collaborators. The core members of the band for ‘Y-OTIS 2’ are comprised of Eldh, drummer Tilo Weber (Clara Haberkamp Trio, David Friedman), keyboardist Dan Nicholls (Fofoulah, Gonimoblast), and featured players, flautists Jonas Kullhammar and Per “Texas” Johansson, trumpeter Ruhi-Deniz Erdogan and cellist Lucy Railton.

The music is as innovative and rebellious as past Sandsjö projects would suggest. Taking a song like ‘abysmal’ as an example which demonstrates its unique ability to feature so many different elements and components to its composition so early in the song but, at the same time, still succeeds in reinventing itself as the song progresses. The album masterfully incorporates subtle twinges of an electronic aesthetic throughout that is really brought to life through Nicholls’s synthesizers – see ‘koppom’ as an example of one of the album’s more trippy numbers, not looking past the glorious and unpredictable nature and energy of ‘bobby’.

Sandsjö has become so adept at knowing when to let his saxophone take the lead and when to let it play its part within the wonderful musicians he’s surrounded himself with. While Sandsjö is very much the star of the album, ‘Y-OTIS 2’ still serves as another triumph to the tag team of Eldh & Sandsjö leaving me incredibly keen to see what the pair will deliver on next.

Imran Mirza