"Erwin Helfer was introduced to piano blues as a young teenager growing up in Chicago in the early '50s, the heyday of the city's blues clubs and the fortunes of labels such as Chess Records. A native of Chicago's south side, he haunted the clubs as a boy, but he also took the time to attend school and completed college with a degree in music, which he followed by spending three years in New Orleans in the late '50s, where he played jazz. Among the musicians who influenced him most were Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Speckled Red, and Helfer counted himself a good friend of guitarist Big Joe Williams. Helfer became a performer and teacher, touring Europe as a blues pianist and also training college students in Chicago throughout the 1970s. His style is equally adaptable to blues and jazz."
"There is a special jazz piano style, uniquely Chicago's, which has been around for a long time and continues to flourish with the likes of Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, Pinetop Perkins, and the practitioner on this CD, Erwin Helfer. In the tradition of Albert Ammons, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Pete Johnson, and others who were born in Chicago and/or did most of their work in the Windy City with its own distinct flavor and cadence, Erwin captures it in its undiluted form on this release by the Sirens, label which seems to have cornered the market for Chicago piano blues. Helfer puts all of the workings of this jazz style out on the line for everyone to hear and enjoy. There's a slow, somewhat sorrowful "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," with John Brumbach adding his bluesy tenor, in contrast to the fast-paced, honky tonk boogie-woogie of Pete Johnson's favorite, "Swanee River Boogie" and Erwin's own boogie, "Pooch Piddle." On one of the all-time blues favorites, Ma Rainey's "See See Rider," Erwin moves back and forth between bass and boogie basslines with ease, making this cut one of the highlights of the album as he embodies the uncommon ability these piano blues performers had to make the music come across with a one-of-a-kind vibrancy and brilliance. Erwin puts icing on the cake as he adds a gospel flavor to one of the biggest R&B hits, "Please Send Me Someone to Love." Other notable tracks include "Dirty Dozens," "The Sheik of Araby," and "After Hours." This CD makes a major contribution to keeping this exciting setting of jazz music in the public eye. Recommended."
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