English translation: Violetta Donadoni.
As a vow to a jazz classic, a language that the honoree perfectly mastered, I want to lead the next lines. What to say about the great Teppo Hauta-aho! A friend, a brother, a complete musician, a tireless creator, a restless and curious child in the body of a man…
With Teppo, I lived incredible moments, and I’m not just talking about music. Together I got to know the Japanese Asahi beer; I got to know what it was like to be a star while being oneself; I learned that humility is not incompatible with genius, among many other things. I also remember a photo of us published in “El Jueves”, one of Spain’s most successful humour magazines.
Teppo was a very humble, relatable, and funny person. Ours was love at first sight. I met him in 2012 in Copenhagen. Despite the fact that we both knew each other through our work as composers (since both of us are published by Recital Music), we had a very strong connection when we met. Fate managed to bring us together many more times afterwards.
I had the opportunity to learn a lot from him; every conversation was like a master class on music and life. I learned a lot simply by sitting and listening to him in our many talks. We called each other often. Sometimes for something, in particular, other times just to say hello and joke around.
Every year, he would call me on my birthday to sing Happy Birthday, except for this year… over a month ago. I didn’t give it much importance at that moment, but I could not have imagined this outcome.
Many of the phrases he used to tell me are etched in my mind, such as: “Fimo, the composer’s best friend is the eraser!”. How much wisdom is in this simple phrase!
“Fimo”, he always called me Fimo. This new nickname started at a festival in the UK organized by David Heyes. As you know, the great Teppo sometimes composed pieces inspired by the names of the performers. On this occasion, my dear Dan Styffe had performed a piece written by Teppo entitled Dan’s Gasparo, which began with “D-A”. This was the basis of the whole piece, but Dan played it in solo tuning this time. After the concert — and joking as always, I said to Teppo: “Dan didn’t play DAn, he played EBn!” because he played in solo tuning. So we laughed and thought about how some pieces could be titled in “solo tuning”. And from that moment, he decided that my solo tuning name would be “Fimo”.
He felt a lot of affection towards me, and I felt protected by him in a certain way. He told me that I was his little brother, and that is how he always made me feel. We were never competitive; he never acted superior; he always treated me very closely and humanely.
As expected, he wrote a piece for me. It was named Simon’s Bounce, and it was in pizzicato with a marked groove and open parts for improvisation, even for percussion.
In 2018, I played this piece for him for the last time at his tribute in Lucca, Italy. I had a particularly busy festival, and when it was time for the concert that was going to be dedicated to Teppo, I realized that I had not been able to study the piece.
Although I had already played it before several times, I did not feel comfortable interpreting it. I talked to him before starting the concert. He said: “Fimo, not a problem, just improvise”. Coming to the final section, I remembered his words. I just closed my eyes and let myself go. It was probably the best interpretation I ever performed.
Besides writing and dedicating a piece to me, there is another thing that only a few people know about. Teppo wrote a Cadenza for my Concertino No.1 as a surprise gift for the premiere of the double bass soloist and orchestra version performed by Diego Zecharies.
We all know his musical achievements: he is, has been and always will be the most prolific composer of music for double bass in history. Indeed, the most performed composer in the history of the double bass.
He became one of the most amazing musicians of his time: eclectic, curious, daring. He certainly became one of the best! For him, it made no difference playing with the Helsinki Philharmonic or with the Finnish Opera or at the smallest and most remote jazz club in the world. He was music.
He was very active and creative until his last breath as a musician. He was committed to himself and to his ways of understanding the world. Every time we met, he always gifted me some albums. I even got some unpublished recordings. “Listen to this, Fimo,” he told me, and that’s how I got to discover Teppo’s most unknown and authentic skills, his restless and versatile spirit. He was a jazz genius. This is something that not everybody knows!
I fondly remember an anecdote during one of his recitals. The event began very seriously, and on the third piece, he stopped to think and asked a lady in the audience which piece he should play next. The lady, blushing, read the title of the next piece written on her program, to which Teppo replied:
—Sure? It can’t be. Let me see…
The lady showed him the program, a bit confused…
It was all laughter in the auditorium. That was Teppo, a forest spirit who enjoyed his antics.
His daughter, Sonata, told me he wouldn’t have wanted people to feel sad about his departure but would have liked this moment to be celebrated with the joy that represented him and his music. And so, this is how it will be.
Thank you for your great legacy, dear friend!