Otto Donner

trumpetist/ composer/ arranger/ producer

Kuva/ Photo: Jukka Vatanen



Otto Donner (1939-2013) was a real handyman of the Finnish music field and he has always had too many irons in the fire. Donner has formed the famous Finnish record label Love Records with Chisse Schwindt and Atte Blom in 1966, been a trustee for many important music institutions, produced and composed music widely... The resume of Otto Donner could easily be as long as a short book. Donner started his music career as a jazztrumpetist at the age of 15 and has always kept his right foot on the field of jazz: in 1960s he lead a quintet with Chisse Schwindt and later he formed his own jazz bands, Otto Donner Treatment and Otto Donner Band.

In the beginning of 1990s Donner composed a big band series for UMO Jazz Orchestra called Dalens Ande where saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen, an old musical partner of Donner, performed as one of the soloists. Johanna Kustannus, that continued the legacy of Love Records, released the series as an album in 1992. The next big band project for Donner was a Billy Strayhorn completion in 1998 that UMO recorded for the Swedish speaking radio, Donner working as a producer and arranger for the project. On the 21st century Donner has composed music for the album Strings Revisited (TUM 2003) that was a return to the classic album Strings from the 1970s of Donner and saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen.

When the trumpetist turned 60, he formed a group called Free for All that reminded the audience how creative modern jazz composer he has always been. The music had lots of  spirit of Otto Donner Treatment from the 1960s but the line-up was filled with younger musicians from different music styles, such as singer Johanna Iivanainen, guitarist Jukka Orma and bassist Ulf Krokfors. The repertoire included older and newer compositions from the trumpetist, compositions from the members of the band and unique interpretations of jazzstandards. The group did a tour organized by the Finnish Jazz Federation in October 1999 and released a livealbum Free for All (Johanna/Live) the next year.

Otto Donner has worked as a trustee for may important music organizations in Finland and thus he has done lots of good for the musicians. One important deed for jazz music was a series of videos of Finnish jazzbands (Jazzact Oy) that was produced by Donner, Rea Pihlasviita and Tomi Päiväläinen. This production, broadcasted several times by the National Broadcast Company, was an essential document of the new jazz in Finland that hasn't been much documented as a video.