Erwin Helfer, a Chicago boogie woogie innovator and master, has been forging his own piano music legacy. Erwin has been playing and performing for over forty years. The sounds and personalities of past boogie woogie and blues pianists have nurtured Erwin’s musical growth. For many years, Erwin accompanied Mama Yancey, the wife of Chicago blues piano patriarch Jimmy “Papa” Yancey, and later recorded one album with her. He was also mentored and influenced by Cripple Clarence Lofton, Speckled Red, and Sunnyland Slim.
During the 60′s and 70′s, Erwin released two piano duet albums with his performing and recording partner of ten years, Jimmy Walker. On their first album, Peter J. Welding, one of the preeminent blues historians and scholars of all time, wrote that Helfer had “mastered the rhythmic and melodic subtleties” of the blues piano style. Other Helfer recordings include Heavy Timbre, a compilation of Chicago blues pianists, several Lps for his own record label Red Beans, and two CDs for Austrian Label CMA.
Erwin has the chops, the feel, and the drive of the masters but he also pushes the “classic” blues piano music forward in a totally new direction. His music is graceful, spirited, and at times beautifully dissonant. Erwin’s classical music training allows him to hear and interpret the simple, percussive blues and boogie piano style like no one else. Yet, his classical training is not overbearing on his own piano approach; that is, his playing is fluid and carefree, not stiff. Chicago has long recognized its musical treasure, Erwin Helfer. He performs regularly at Chicago clubs and annually at the Chicago Blues Festival garnering rave reviews from publications such as The Reader and Chicago Magazine. His local gigs and frequent European tours have created a strong and loyal following in Chicago and overseas.