Spirit Of New Orleans Productions
Traditional New Orleans Jazz With A 21st Century Flavor



New Orleans Helsinki Connection ~ Paradise On Earth
" -- Another collaboration from this diverse ensemble once again ferrying jazz lovers to a better understanding of musical intimacy. -- "
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It’s been 8 years since their debut album At Last and now; another collaboration from this diverse ensemble once again ferrying jazz lovers to a better understanding of musical intimacy. Along with a fresh set of titles, the band’s lineup is also slightly augmented on this new, captivating recording. Finnish based drummer and co-founder of the group, Thomas Rönnholm, doesn’t appear amongst the personnel this time. But co-founder, bandleader, trombonist Katja Toivola is an irrefutable force along with vocalist Tricia Boutté. These three talented individuals came up with the idea of putting the group together when they were members of a Helsinki based band, back in 2001. Toivola and Rönnholm being natives of Helsinki and Boutté from New Orleans figured since they performed so often together throughout Finland that it might not be a bad idea to dub their latest venture the New Orleans Helsinki Connection.

New Orleans Helsinki Connection ~ Paradise On Earth  (SONOP 0714)

1. Paradise On Earth (Katja Toivola / Teosto ~ Arranged by Leroy Jones ~ 2010) 6:10
2. I've Found A New Baby
(Jack Palmer - Spencer Williams ~ 1926) 5:18
3. Fidgety Feet
(Nick La Rocca ~ 1918) 5:00
4. There'll Be Some Changes Made
(Benton Overstreet - Billy Higgins ~ 1921) 4:50
5. Stardust
(Hoagy Carmichael - Mitchell Parish ~ 1929) 6:05
6. After You've Gone
(Turner Layton - Henry Creamer ~ Arranged by Leroy Jones ~ 1918) 4:41
7. Oh! Didn't He Ramble
(Bob Cole - J. Rosamond Johnson ~ 1902) 5:47
8. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
(Turner Layton - Henry Creamer ~ 1922) 6:20
9. We'll Understand It Better By and By
(Charles Albert Tindley ~ 1906) 4:00
10. Baby Won't You Please Come Home
(Charles Warfield - Clarence Williams ~ 1919) 5:34
11. My Funny Valentine
(Richard Rodgers - Lorenz Hart ~ 1937) 5:57
12. Caipirinha da Lapa
(Leroy Jones / BMI ~ Arranged by Leroy Jones ~ 2010) 5:57
13. High Society
(Porter Steele t Arranged by Leroy Jones ~ 1901) 5:34
14. Chinatown, My Chinatown
(William Jerome - Jean Schwartz ~ 1910) 4:30
Total time 75:49

On this new album, listeners will also delight in the musical excellence of trumpeter and vocalist Leroy Jones, guitarist Todd Duke, pianist Paul Longstreth and bassist Nobu Ozaki. The additional players to augment this superb set of music include outstanding performances from vocalist Yolanda Windsay, bassist Mitchell Player and drummers extraordinaire Jerry Anderson and Gerald French.  

The first track, Paradise On Earth, is an original composition from Katja that denotes a noble salute to the city of New Orleans, her current residence. It opens with an instrumental chorus followed by a soulful deliverance from Tricia, with brilliant 16 bar passages being traded between trumpet, trombone, piano and guitar, with an ensuing vocal out chorus. Clever lyrics, along with a catchy melody comfortably place this song amongst the great jazz standards. Within the quintet format, the band revs it up with an exuberant instrumental I Found A New Baby, Gerald getting to show off his chops during a nifty shout chorus that follows Mitch’s swinging bass solo. They bring back Todd’s stellar guitar work on track 3 for a superb rendition of Fidgety Feet, a traditional jazz classic. Both of these two previous tracks are strong, with delightful interplay between trumpet and trombone during the ensemble sections and all these musicians render unfeigned solos that stimulate desirable anticipation. Tricia returns with a sassy but humorous version of the standard There’ll Be Some Changes Made, with indelible solos from Paul and Leroy. Track 5 will place you in a pensive mood with Tricia’s peerless, evocative interpretation of Stardust. Along with Leroy’s silky smooth flugelhorn solo, Paul’s piano and Mitch’s bass accompaniment is incomparable. After You’ve Gone is offered new life with the Connection’s newfangled arrangement and Tricia exiting the set following four pristine performances.


The band reverts to the quintet format and a more traditional jazz genre with a jovial Oh Didn’t He Ramble, rendering Leroy some vocal duties, with Katja and rhythm section consisting of guitar, introducing Nobu on bass and Jerry on the drums. Paul and Gerald are back on track 8 where they strike up a boppish cover of Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, with a couple of frolicsome vocal choruses from Leroy. The band stays within that traditional vein with their next selection, We'll Understand It Better By And By, which introduces the preeminent voice of Yolanda. Track 9 also brings Jerry back to the drum set. Bessie Smith would be flabbergasted at how Yolanda skillfully belts out one of her old signature pieces, Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, on track number 10. Accompanied by guitar, bass, drums and flugelhorn, before she exits, her vocal prowess simply blows you away with a breathtaking performance of My Funny Valentine. As this awesome set of music nears the end, the NOHConnection takes you down to Brazil with Caipirinha da Lapa, a new instrumental penned by Leroy to salute one of the band’s favorite destinations. Track number 13 gears up with an invigorating arrangement of High Society. Slick interplay once again between trumpet and trombone, rousing solos from all, with echoes of Alphonse Picou’s seminal clarinet solo. On the final track of 14 the band swings out and ends on a high note with a vivacious China Town.  

Listening to the New Orleans Helsinki Connection’s new CD Paradise On Earth brought me to a place or space that can undeniably be defined as paradise, even if only for an hour and some change. If you’re a NOHConnection fan, owning this musical treasure is a must. What a great set of music! ~ Joseph Daniel  


Album liner notes by Katja Toivola

The concept of "Paradise On Earth" surely means different things for different people. And most likely "a perfect place" does not exist. There are just places that are suitable for different individuals. New Orleans, with all its problems, seems to be that place for me, and for all the musicians involved in this project. The last seven years since the federal levee failure have been a trial and a challenge to all New Orleanians. But also in some ways, the fact that we came so close to losing our home city made us realize how precious and unique a place it is. For what we do, the Crescent City offers incalculable amounts of history, culture, and inspiration. Not to mention the opportunities to play and exist with other like-minded people.

The NOHC was formed in the summer of 2001 and has since its inception in some ways been paradise on earth among the other bands that each of us play. We don't get to play together as often as we would like but when we do, all the pieces just seem to click together, wonderful musical things happen intuitively and the gigs (and recording sessions) are tons of fun. Along the years the band has become a family, we may not see each other as often as we would like but when we do, it's like no time has passed since the last reunion.

The musicians and the concept of this recording are slightly different from NOHC's first CD "At Last", from 2004. During the years we have had the fortune to work with many great "subs" some of whom are now featured on the record. Most distinguishably you will notice a change behind the drums. Thomas Rönnholm, the groups original drummer who was unable to join us this time due to his extremely busy work schedule in Finland, has been replaced by some of New Orleans' finest: the great Gerald French and Jerry Barbarin Anderson, one of New Orleans' best kept secrets.

We are also featuring two bass players: Nobu Ozaki who is NOHC's original bassist and Mitchell Player who has done most of the touring with us due to Nobu's high demand in New Orleans. There are also some changes in the vocal front. Tricia has been living in Norway for several years and in her absence we have had the great pleasure and privilege to have Yolanda Windsay share the stage with us. Now both of these wonderful vocalists appear on the CD.

This band has traveled to many a place and played some wonderful gigs in remote locations like Brazil, Norway and Finland. Still, however nice it is to travel, playing and recording in New Orleans, our paradise on earth, is always something special for us.

This recording is a love song to New Orleans, its culture, its residents, and the timeless music they have created. Most of the songs on it were composed in the first two decades of the 20th century, yet they are still fresh and meaningful now, almost a hundred years later. ~ Katja Toivola


Oh New Orleans, oh what a town
How good it feels to be Crescent bound
To see your friends and taste the food
It's paradise on earth for me

Following a Second Line
The best way to spend your time
Browse the Quarter, take it in
It's paradise on earth for me

When you go to the Tremé
and eat those red beans
You'll know you're right at home
There's nothing like this elsewhere in the world
– anywhere

Oh my city, the southern queen
It's the best place you've ever seen
Filled with culture, oh New Orleans
It's paradise on earth for me


Monday night at Donna's bar
Let the music take you far
Mardi Gras and Indians
It's paradise on earth for me

Creole food that tastes so good
I'm sure that's understood
Calas, beignets and CDM
It's paradise on earth for me

The oak trees that shade you
from the blistering sun
The scent of magnolias
The summer wraps around you all the way
– all the way

Come see the city of a million dreams
Make yours be one that will complete
With open arms the city's here
It's paradise on earth for me


New Orleans Helsinki Connection ~ Paradise On Earth

Tricia Boutté ~ vocals on 1, 4, 5, 6
Yolanda Windsay ~ vocals on 9, 10, 11
Leroy Jones ~ vocals on 7, 8, trumpet, flugelhorn
Katja Toivola ~ trombone
Todd Duke ~ guitar
Paul Longstreth ~ piano
Nobu Ozaki ~ bass on 7 and 9-14
Mitchell Player ~ bass on 1-6 and 8
Jerry Anderson ~ drums on 7 and 9-14
Gerald French ~ drums on 1-4, 6 and 8


Recorded and mixed by Tim Stambaugh at the Word Of Mouth Studio January 5 and 9, February 28 and March 1, 2011
Mastered by David Farrell March 26, 2011
Produced by Katja Toivola and Leroy Jones
Graphic design by Katja Toivola
Photography by Shannon Brinkman, www.shannonbrinkman.com

 (C) and (P)  Spirit Of New Orleans Productions


The NOHC would like to thank Tim, David, Shannon, Ada, Roya, Cordell, Esko, all our families and friends, New Orleans' music community, all people who support live jazz around the world and the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic. Special thanks go out to the Threadhead Records Foundation for their generous support!


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More on New Orleans Helsinki Connection

Read Brian Boyles' review in OffBeat

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Last updated: January 25, 2020