Sweetness and light abound on the latest release from New Orleans Helsinki Connection. Led by the inimitable Leroy Jones and buffeted by vocal contributions from Tricia Boutté and Yolanda Windsay, the album sounds like late afternoon.
Jones and Katja Toivola direct this transatlantic exchange, enlisting players who care about getting it right. Gerald French and Jerry Anderson move things expertly, evidenced in the late-night snare rolls of “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and the hi-hat whispers of “My Funny Valentine” that prove once more the importance of details in traditional jazz. Windsay is especially potent on the latter cut. If the selections here lack adventure, they confirm again the essential contribution of Leroy Jones to sustained appreciation of the New Orleans canon. A living link to the Fairfield Baptist Church Brass Band, he soldiers on with an easy gravity that befits a student of Danny Barker; check him out swinging through “Oh! Didn’t He Ramble” on vocals and trumpet.
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Boutté lives in Norway now and one imagines her rendition of “Stardust” against the Nordic sky. “High Society” is especially good and the final cut, “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” offers great interplay between the horns. Guitarist Todd Duke is good here and throughout. Helsinki Connection is a living jazz embassy and Paradise on Earth continues to build on this oddly suitable bond between two cities.