It seems that the Helsinki-based Spirit of New Orleans (SONO), saved the best for last on its sophomore release. The group boasts trombonist Katja Toivola and as a special guest, her husband, trumpeter Leroy Brown, and it does a good job on traditional material like “Tin Roof Blues.” Things get much more interesting, though, when the band ventures into original material. Toivola’s “Montego Bounce” rocks steady with a Jamaican flair that is reminiscent of material favored by the legendary Skatalites. It’s the perfect vehicle to show off her growing prowess on the trombone. All of musicians sound more relaxed and together in the groove than on the title cut, which never gets into the swing. Perhaps stepping away from classic jazz offered the Finnish musicians a greater sense of freedom.
Jones is always at the top of his game, whatever the genre. His Latin-tinged offering, “KT & Me” continues the tropical mood, and a tune from Finish composer Oskar Merikanto, “Thou Tune of My Mourning,” also gets a thumbs up. It’s a more modern, finger-snapping number that demonstrates that, indeed, SONO can swing. The ensemble beautifully states the catchy and memorable melody, and each of the musicians takes a tasty solo. It’s a good lead into the closer, “Chicken ‘N’ Dumplins.” This tune, along with “Woodchopper’s Ball,” jumps with a modern flair that sure beats yet another uninspired version of “Bourbon Street Parade” here with vocals by guest Eeppi Ursin. Hmmm, maybe these Finish musicians are really modern jazzers with a love for tradition. I’ll go for that.