Erkki Aho

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It's a Finnish name, and by name alone Erkki Aho could pass for a character from Star Wars, not to mention the sounds made by someone who has dropped a hammer on their foot. Which goes to show how misleading…
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Artist Biography by

It's a Finnish name, and by name alone Erkki Aho could pass for a character from Star Wars, not to mention the sounds made by someone who has dropped a hammer on their foot. Which goes to show how misleading humorous tangents based on foreign names can be. Aho is a legend as a brass player, bandleader, and champion of swing in his homeland. In fact, he is the man who introduced that style of jazz to a land where rabbits are sometimes the size of small deer. Both animals were shut out of the popular dances where he cut his teeth as a teenage musician, at this point sitting in the trombone section. It was the '30s, and bandleaders such as Eugen Malmsten had the most popular dance bands in Helsinki.

Just like many European jazz fans, Aho found the birth of swing to be a source of relief as well as an entrancing musical notion. It motivated him to become a bandleader on his own, and he was the first fellow in his country to kick off his snow boots and organize his own swing big band. That put him in the same position as the first hungry person at the fish buffet in terms of the growing Finnish swing fan base. In fact, he may have eaten up the entire smorgasbord, since the history of what was something of a thriving scene has been described as completely obscure by experts in European big band history. Does the name Jaako Vuormaa ring a bell? By 1944, Aho and his Rytmiorkestreri -- that's Finnish for rhythm orchestra -- were well ahead of any such competition and had their own series of records. The group did their own version of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," a standard that continually provokes interpretations from international musicians, including Japanese pianist Aki Takase in 2002.

Rather than spend his entire career with what would have eventually developed into a swing revival rather than a birthing, Aho switched courses dramatically in the early '60s. He made the move from trombone to trumpet and also played mostly classical music, performing with the Tampere Symphony Orchestra through 1971.