Erwin Helfer / John Brumbach Duo
Chicago has gifted the world with any number of great pianists in the blues and boogie woogie tradition: Jimmy Yancey, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Art Hodes, Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins. None has been more loved than the remarkable Erwin Helfer, who at 78 is the last living link to Jimmy (and Mama) Yancey. For all his encyclopedic authority, which he has applied to preserving and promoting music that is in danger of disappearing, he roots his songs in the present. His appeal is timeless.
As concertgoers discovered two years ago at Millennium Park, where Helfer was honored with an evening-long tribute as part of the Made in Chicago series, he is equally deft as a solo performer, bandleader and accompanist. Tonight, he’ll be featured in a longstanding duo with tenor saxophonist John “Boom” Brumbach, a carousing soloist who can go down deep. Brumbach is featured on Helfer’s recent album, Erwin Helfer Way (that’s what the City of Chicago named a section of Magnolia Street in his honor). Prepare for quite a ride: This duo ranges over stride, ragtime and the occasional hard bop experiment as well as blues and boogie.