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Matt Otto

Matt Otto is currently the Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Kansas University (KU)  teaching Jazz Theory and Performance, Jazz Combo 1 and private lessons. Matt was also an Adjunct Professor at the Rutgers New Brunswick teaching online courses in jazz improvisation, theory and performance.

Matt Otto pursued his education in music performance and composition at Indiana University, Berklee School of Music, New School Jazz (BFA) and California Institute of the Arts (MFA) during which time he studied under Lee Konitz, George Garzone, Billy Pierce, Charlie Haden, Don Hawkins and many others.  Having lived in Japan for 6 years, New York City for 7 years and Los Angels for 6 years, he has performed with a variety of artists including Anthony Wilson, Larry Koonse, Rashid Bakr, Ben Monder, Willie Jones III, Alan Ferber, Mark Ferber, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Gregory Hutchinson, Jonathan Kreisberg, Joe La Barbera, Leroy Vinegar, Bob Bowman, Jimmy Smith (drums), Paul Jackson, Ari Honig, Ben Street, Mike Moreno, Sara Gazarek, Josh Nelson, Peter Schlamb, Danny Weiss, Roger Wilder, William Parker, Matt Wilson, Steve Cardenas, Bobby Watson, Bob Weir, Deborah Brown,  Larry Goldings, Eric Harland, Sheryl Bailey, Darek Oles, Erik McPherson, John Stowell, Danny Embrey, Alan Pasqua, and many others.

While in Los Angeles, Matt co-founded of the Los Angeles Jazz Collective (lajazzcollective.org).  The mission of the collective (LAJC) is to help create opportunities for creative jazz composers and performers to showcase original artistic work and to set up an ongoing Jazz outreach program for young jazz musicians in and around Los Angeles.

Matt currently performs his original compositions and jazz standards with his Kansas City based quartet as well as traveling several times per year to NYC and LA for performances and recordings.

Matt has recorded and performed with the Grammy nominated Anthony Wilson Nonet (The Power of Nine, Groove Note 1035, 2006), The Rashid Bakr Quintet, has performed in Los Angeles with the Grammy Nominated Alan Ferber Big Band as well as having recorded on over 50 CD’s as both a leader and a side man.  See below for a discography of noteworthy recordings.


Selmar Mark VI Tenor Selmar Mark VI Soprano


Liner Notes

Matt Otto: Umbra

Read "Matt Otto: Umbra" reviewed by Gary Fukushima

In his 30-plus years in music, Matt Otto has, in addition to mastering improvising and training his ear to near perfection, learned to write incredibly complex compositions, challenging in every musical aspect: melodic, harmonic, rhythmic. Yet even now, his composing continues to evolve. “I feel like it's maybe less evolution than like going back to my roots," the tenor saxophonist contravenes. “I started out being a mostly free player, and I'm missing as I get older more of ...

Album Review

Matt Otto: Umbra

Read "Umbra" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

This music--nine Matt Otto originals--has the feeling of shadowy sounds. Shapes without defined borders emerge. On the opener, “Little Things," the core trio--the leader plus bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer John Kizilarmut--are joined by Fender Rhodes player Matt Villinger and guitarist Alex Frank. The electronic resonance gives the sound an alluring and shadowy blur, as does the guest guitarist. Saxophonist Matt Otto boasts a large discography. Notable selections include two previous Origin Records releases, 2009's Red (review here) ...

Album Review

Matt Otto: Soliloquy

Read "Soliloquy" reviewed by Don Phipps

A soliloquy according to the dictionary is “an act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers....." No more apt title could be assigned to Matt Otto's wonderful album Soliloquy. Reminiscent of Matisse's use of color, Otto uses his music to paint a cool canvas of evocative sounds that describe thoughts that populate his world. The result is a string of absorbing and varied compositions that give pleasure to the ear and inspire the mind. ...

Album Review

Matt Otto/Andy Ehling: Reunion

Read "Reunion" reviewed by Don Phipps

A Los Angeles import whose left an indelible mark on the Kansas City jazz scene, tenor sax and composer extraordinaire Matt Otto continues his run of successful jazz explorations with Reunion, a collaboration with 30-year friend and Bay Area, CA alto saxophonist Andy Ehling. Otto's music has always seemed a bit out of place in the more swing, blues and bop oriented jazz that populates much of the Kansas City scene. Thankfully, the gifted Otto's subtle, sensitive folk-oriented ...

Album Review

Matt Otto with Ensemble Iberica: Iberica

Read "Iberica" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Saxophonist Matt Otto presents the ambitious Iberica, a trip into the sounds of music from the Iberian Peninsula--Spain and Portugal. Ensemble Iberica joins him, a guitar trio that adds--in addition to their guitars--the cavaquinto, the oud, and the Cuban tres, crafting a delicate yet expansive soundscape in this tranquil, flowing, chamber jazz outing. This is Otto's first Origin Records outing since 2005's Red, a superb quartet recording, featuring the tenor saxophonist with a guitar/bass/drums rhythm section. Iberica has ...

Take Five With...

Take Five With Matt Otto

Read "Take Five With Matt Otto" reviewed by AAJ Staff

Meet Matt Otto:Born in 1967, Matt Otto was exposed to music at an early age, his mother, a music major in college, played classical viola and his father sang and played bluegrass banjo. He began playing piano at three and saxophone at nine.

By 15 he was playing his first local jazz gigs. After High School, Matt attended Indiana University, Berklee College of Music, received his B.A. From The New School for Social Research and his M.F.A. From ...

Album Review

Matt Otto: Red

Read "Red" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Saxophonist Matt Otto is Los Angeles-based these days, but for his fifth CD, Red, he got together with some musical running mates from his time in New York: guitarist Greg Toughy, drummer Qasim Naqvi, and bassist Danton Boller. Considering its standard jazz lineup of tenor sax and a rhythm section, the band has crafted quite an original sound.The set of eight Otto orignals sustains a hauntingly restrained mood from start to finish, churning along in a cool fluid ...

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LAJC Residency at Blue Whale Part II: Thompson/Otto Duo, Ariel Alexander Group, Matt Otto Quintet

LAJC Residency at Blue Whale Part II: Thompson/Otto Duo, Ariel Alexander Group, Matt Otto Quintet

Source: Los Angeles Jazz Collective

LAJC Residency at Blue Whale, Part II, Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA, Wednesday, January 11, 8pm Leonard Thompson/Matt Otto duo (CD release) Ariel Alexander Group Matt Otto Quintet Leonard Thompson/Matt Otto Duo Pianist Leonard Thompson grew up listening to jazz via his father Rex, a well known jazz pianist in Orange County, and eventually followed in his dad's footsteps, after a brief flirtation in college with becoming a geologist. Sexy rocks couldn't pull him away from ...

Primary Instrument

Saxophone, tenor


Kansas City


All Levels' Have taught at private lessons/theory and ensembles at: The New School for Social Research California Institute of the Arts USC UCLA Cal State LA Cal State Northridge Lessons include: Performance Improvisation Modern Vocabulary Singing Ear Training Scatting Playing by Ear Listening Alexander Technique Meditation/Relaxation Posture

Clinic/Workshop Information

Theory Performance Improvisation Modern Vocabulary Singing Ear Training Scatting Playing by Ear Listening Alexander Technique Meditation/Relaxation Posture


Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

We Need The Wind

Outside in Music


Life Is Like A Song

Lied Center of Kansas



Origin Records


Sunflower Song

Next Level



Origin Records



Origin Records


Little Things

From: Umbra
By Matt Otto

Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You

From: Life Is Like A Song
By Matt Otto

This One's for John

From: Sunflower Song
By Matt Otto

Viewed In

From: Ibeica
By Matt Otto


From: La Commune
By Matt Otto



Lee Konitz
saxophone, alto
Jaleel Shaw
saxophone, alto
Art Pepper
saxophone, alto
Jerry Bergonzi
saxophone, tenor
Warne Marsh
saxophone, tenor
George Garzone
saxophone, tenor
Jacques Schwarz-Bart
saxophone, tenor

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