About James O'Donnell


A Trumpet Man, a Trumpet Player, a Trumpet Life!

Co-leading Detroit's little big band the Planet D Nonet since 2007 has kept James O’Donnell in the limelight of the music scene in Detroit. The band has garnered seven Motor City Music Awards for Outstanding Jazz Recording or Outstanding Traditional Jazz Ensemble. The band’s “Salute to Strayhorn”, a tribute to Duke Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn released on Detroit Music Factory, was considered for a Grammy Award in 2017 and received airplay throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. James has toured through 13 states in the Midwest and the deep South with PD9.

James started in the late '70s with the band Kuumba on Detroit’s east side; that group later became the well-known Sun Messengers. It was during that time he started studying with trumpeter Russell Green, a swing era veteran who toured with the famous Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Russell took James under his wing and passed on many secrets of the trade to his young protégé, including the Stevens-Costello Embouchure technique and Max Schlossberg methods. James shares those techniques with his students to this day.

After leaving the Sun Messengers, James lived for a while in New York City, then started working on cruise ships and alternately living and working in jazz clubs in Mexico City. Shipboard gigs took him around the globe; he eventually settled back on Detroit’s east side to raise a family.

While aboard cruise ships, James was able to get a master class with Los Angeles studio ace Uan Rasey, best known for his work as a first-call trumpet player for MGM studios from 1949 until the early 1970s. He espoused a non-pressure method of lip flexibility that James also teaches his students, who range from sixth graders to folks in their 60s. James works with young beginners, adult beginners and adults who want to pick the horn back up again, what James calls "come-back players."

He specializes in passing on nearly lost swing era techniques like growling, plunger and other mutes and half-valving.

James teaches at Anderson Music in Troy, Michigan, and offers Zoom cyber/facetime lessons and, when it's safe, in-home lessons.

(A downloadable biography is included in the Press section)

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Photos by Chuck Andersen


James teaches students ranging from sixth graders to folks in their 60s. James works with young beginners, adult beginners and adults who want to pick the horn back up again, what James calls "come-back players."

James is available for

  • Online Lessons
  • In-Home Instruction
  • Session Work
  • Studio Work

  • Phone: 586-690-3393
  • Email: james@jamesodonnellmusic.com

"I started as a true beginner on the trumpet at age 57 and I have taken lessons from James for over four years. Not only does he have tremendous talent and experience playing the trumpet but he has unmatched passion and enthusiasm that is evident from the first lesson. He is always positive and encouraging and that is so important for a new student. James knows how to teach and his instruction comes from years of experience actually playing in front of an audience which makes his insight and instruction even more valuable."

Chris Dolan, March 2021


Catch James at one of these upcoming shows...

PD8 at Wahby Park in St Clair Shores, 7 pm for the Macomb Chamber Music Society - Wahby Park in St. Clair Shores, MI | Macomb Cham
Mon Jul 12, 2021 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Wahby Park, 24800 Jefferson Ave, St Clair Shores, MI 48080, USA

Details at: https://www.facebook.com/MacombChamberMusicSociety

PD9, First Street Beach Pavilion, Manistee, MI
Tue Aug 10, 2021 7:00pm - 8:00pm
1st Street Beach Manistee, Michigan, 100-122 S Lakeshore Dr, Manistee, MI 49660, USA

PD9, Cadillac Rotary Pavilion - Cadillac, MI
Thu Aug 12, 2021 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion, 100 S Lake St, Cadillac, MI 49601, USA

Upbeat Cadillac presents a concert at the Cadillac Rotary Pavilion with the PD9, ay 7PM https://cadillacmichigan.com/cadillac-listings/rotary-performing-arts-pavilion-cadillac-commons/

PD9, Rambadt Park in Reed City, MI
Fri Aug 13, 2021 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Rambadt Park, 700 N Park St, Reed City, MI 49677, USA

PD9 at the Rambadt Park in Reed City, MI, 7PM. https://www.michigan.org/property/rambadt-park-campground

PD9, Wenger Pavilion in Baldwin, MI
Sat Aug 14, 2021 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Baldwin, MI 49304, USA

PD9 at the Wenger Pavilion in Baldwin, MI at 7PM. https://www.baldwinsummerconcerts.org/concert-schedule-2012

PD9, Gulf Landing - Pentwater, MI
Sun Aug 15, 2021 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Gull Landing, 438 S Hancock St, Pentwater, MI 49449, USA

PD9 at Gull Landing in Pentwater, MI at 6PM. https://gulllanding.com/


Planet D Nonet featuring T-Bone Paxton | Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'
Planet D Nonet - Dr. Jive Jives

RJ's Kansas City Six - Kidney Stew
Live @ The Dirty Dog - Planet D Nonet

Press Information

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photo by Bill Dwyer



photo by Bill Dwyer



photo by Bill Dwyer



photo by Bill Dwyer



photo by Bill Dwyer



photo by Bill Dwyer



photo by Bill Dwyer


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Featured Recordings

Listen to James O'Donnell on these and many other recordings:

Planet D Nonet

Kings of Kansas City Swing: Bennie Moten & Count Basie

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Kuumba Reunion Band

Kuumba / Reunion

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Planet D Nonet

A Salute to Strayhorn

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PD9 Township Jazz Band

PD9 Township Jazz Project

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Planet D Nonet w/sg John Sinclair

Monk's Dream

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Planet D Nonet

Just A Sittin' & A Rockin' with Tbone Paxton

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James O'Donnell

Christmas in the D (OUT OF PRINT)

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Planet D Nonet

We Travel the Spaceways - The Music of Sun Ra

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View More Planet D Nonet Recordings

Featured Photos

Photo by Chuck Andersen - at the Blue Goose Inn
Photo by Chuck Andersen - at the Scarab Club Oct. 2018

More Photos on Flickr

Contact James