Kansas City, MO – Renowned modern jazz saxophonist Matt Otto has been making waves in the music scene with the release of his third album this summer, titled “Umbra.” Based in Kansas City, Otto is celebrated for his exceptional talent and is regarded as one of the city’s finest jazz musicians.
His partnership with drummer John Kizilarmut, which spans a decade, has resulted in remarkable musical collaborations. Otto’s journey has taken him from Los Angeles to New York City and Japan, touring extensively along the way. In 2009, he made Kansas City his home, eventually joining the faculty at the University of Kansas as an associate professor of jazz studies.
Recently, Otto was granted a sabbatical to dedicate time to his musical pursuits, which led to a flurry of album releases. The prolific artist surprised listeners with not one but three albums in just a few months.
In June, Otto’s Los Angeles-based ensemble, Joe-Less Shoe, self-released “Old Soles.” This bass-less modern jazz trio features compositions from each member, including Jamie Rosenn on guitar and Jason Harnell on drums.
Continuing his productive streak, Otto unveiled “Kansas City Trio” in June as well, featuring four different local trios and introducing standards into his repertoire. Among the highlights was a contemporary and funk-infused rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Segment.”
However, “Umbra” stands out as Otto’s most meticulously crafted release of the three. Released in late August through West Coast label Origin Records, the album is a culmination of Otto’s extensive collection of original compositions, many of which were penned during his sabbatical year.
The album’s second track, “Hawk,” serves as a heartfelt tribute to his late saxophone teacher, Doug Hawkins, showcasing Otto’s distinctive lyrical style—a reflection of his holistic approach to music creation. Otto reveals, “I sing a lot when I write and when I practice.”
“Umbra” features a lineup of esteemed musicians from the Kansas City jazz scene, including bassist Jeff Harshbarger, drummer John Kizilarmut, guitarist Alex Frank, trumpeter Hermon Mehari (now based in Paris), and Matt Villinger on the Fender Rhodes. The recording, mixing, and mastering process for the album was nothing short of comprehensive, capturing the essence of intuitive musicianship.
Otto’s dedication to his craft shines through in his commitment to daily composition and creative exploration. Even as he returns to the classroom this fall, his passion for writing and releasing music remains undiminished, promising more delightful recordings from his sabbatical sessions in the near future.
As Otto eloquently puts it, “I have a goal of sitting down at the piano and writing one musical idea a day. Sometimes that germ of an idea turns into more.” With such dedication, there’s no doubt that Matt Otto’s musical journey will continue to captivate and inspire.