The world lost an immense musical talent and all of us lost the truest of friends when Bruce Otto passed away at the age of 57 on June 15, 2011. Bruce was one of the greatest musicians we will ever have had the privilege to know and hear, whether as a trombone soloist, side man (on all low brass) or even vocalist.
Bruce hailed from Chicago, where he attended De Paul University, later becoming a “first call” studio trombonist who could play all musical styles. His ballad playing was some of the prettiest ever heard, his solos on Emmanuel Gold from the CD “All My Concertos” and on Stardust from the Fred Mills tribute CD, “To Fred With Love”, but two of many shining examples. Bruce was also probably the most comical story teller of his day. Bruce’s dual crafts of trombone playing and story telling were honed in most every recording studio and concert hall of Chicago and Los Angeles, (not to mention live theater “pits” and “green rooms”) from the early 1970s through 2011when he performed for the musical, “Twist” at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Possessing incredibly high musical standards, Bruce was a natural leader who could quickly eliminate the extraneous so as to be able to focus on the critical, in the process helping other musicians to survive many a difficult situation. He was a true student of good music and was especially expert on Frank Sinatra. When Bruce wasn’t listening to music, he was sharing music with others, often from his vast recording collection. If one needed any big band, orchestra or jazz combo personnel trivia, Bruce was in a league by himself (“Ask Bruce” was far superior to any Google search).
Those of us in Los Angeles first met Bruce in 1978 or 1979 during his first tour of duty here. Many more counted Bruce as a musical colleague and great friend upon getting to know him better after he moved to L.A. for good in 1989. He had a heart as big as the rainbow, and if one needed someone to “hang with”, lend a hand, or merely to use as a sounding board, one could always count on Bruce Otto.
Bruce, we will miss you more than you could have ever imagined. Your heart and humanity cannot be replaced. We will always hold your memory dear. We just wish you hadn’t heeded Tommy Pederson’s call from above - “We need you up here! – so unfairly soon. May God bless you Bruce, our great friend . . . until we meet again.
-- JDM Records