Celebrate the Journey
The Sirens Records (SR-5028)
In early March 2020, The Sirens Records gathered some of Erwin Helfer's closest friends and musical collaborators to record a jam session. Through the years, the band members, John Brumbach, Davide Ilardi, Lou Marini, and Skinny Williams, developed and honed a magical musical comraderie with Erwin. All of them, accomplished musicians in their own right, shine even brighter when working with Erwin. They groove, they swing, and they show their love and admiration for this piano master. On this disc, Erwin will charm you with his distinctive blues and jazz piano style: creative, crafty, dexterous, and fun. This recording celebrates Erwin's lifetime achievements in Chicago boogie-woogie and blues piano as well as his upcoming 85th birthday in January 2021. This session captures the good time party atmosphere and, as you listen, you share in the celebration.
The Sirens Records (SR-5024)
As these new recordings prove, Helfer's octogenarian status has not slowed him down a bit; he's still tickling the ivories with the same verve that he's done so throughout his career. On one track, Helfer is joined by his two longtime collaborators, tenor sax player John Brumbach and vocalist Katherine Davis. This disc also marks the debut of vocalist Ardella Williams. We have included three historical, never released before, recordings by Erwin: two 1957 recordings by Estelle 'Mama' Yancey with Erwin's accompaniment and a 1979 live recording with Mama, Erwin, Odie Payne Jr., and Truck Parham. Like all of the great Chicago pianists before him, Erwin learned directly from the masters but developed his own, distinctive, lyrical style; on this disc you can hear his evolution from the 1950's through the 1970's to today.
Erwin Helfer Way
The Sirens Records (SR-5020)
In the Chicago blues piano tradition, each player developed his own personal style, from Jimmy Yancey to Albert Ammons. Erwin Helfer's style and his compositions are his own. His playing and personality are honest, straightforward, and committed to strong personal connections, on the bandstand and off. On "Erwin Helfer Way", Helfer plays solo, and he is also joined by some of his closest collaborators including Barrelhouse Chuck, John Brumbach, William "Bugs" Cochran, Lou Marini, and Skinny Williams. This disc is another masterpiece by Helfer, who is the last living link to the Yancey's.
The Sirens Records (SR-5011)
Erwin Helfer follows up his 2003 W.C. Handy nominated solo recording I’m Not Hungry But I Like To Eat - Blues! with a trio on Careless Love, a diverse collection of blues, boogie, and jazz piano. Helfer has been an integral part of blues piano history for the past fifty years, and he is the last living link to the Yancey’s legacy of Chicago blues and boogie piano. On this disc Erwin plays Mama Yancey’s signature piece “Make Me A Pallet On The Floor”; an original composition “Paris But I Don’t Know Why” which sounds like a classical etude, but also has a spunky barrelhouse flavor; jazz standards like “Sunny Side of the Street” and “All of Me” which jump off the keys; and the calypso-tinged “Jambalaya.”
St. James Infirmary
The Sirens Records (SR-5006)
Skinny Williams follows a long tradition of great Chicago tenor saxophonists, from Gene Ammons to Von Freeman, whose playing is steeped in a blues, soul, and jazz gumbo. Erwin Helfer is a master Chicago blues and jazz pianist, with a longstanding, traditional Chicago style. Together, Skinny and Erwin play blues, jazz standards, and ballads. Their interpretations of "St. James Infirmary", "Trouble in Mind", "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You", "Nobody Knows You When You Are Down and Out", and "Please Send Me Someone To Love" are incredibly sweet yet sorrowful at the same time. Their versions of Waller's classics "Ain't Misbehavin" and "Honeysuckle Rose" are innovative and still true to the stride style. Skinny even does some honking on "Pooch Piddle" and "Back at the Chicken Shack". This CD will delight both blues and jazz fans. It sounds as if Skinny and Erwin are performing a club date right in your living room.
8 Hands on 88 Keys - Blues Piano Masters
The Sirens Records (SR-5003)
On November 13, 2001, The Sirens Records gathered four Chicago blues piano masters, Pinetop Perkins, Detroit Junior, Erwin Helfer, and Barrelhouse Chuck, to record some low down solo blues and boogie woogie. During this studio recording session these musicians shared some laughs, reminisced, and had a good time. But this was more than just a party or a reunion. The result was magic on a concert grand piano, as these musicians spurred one another on to bring out their best piano playing abilities. Enjoy these masters as they keep the blues and boogie woogie piano tradition alive!
Heavy Timbre - Chicago Boogie Piano
The Sirens Records (SR-5002)
"Heavy Timbre" is a reissue of some of the best solo boogie woogie and blues piano recordings to date. Captured for posterity are five legendary pianists recorded at a "studio party" in 1976, where the challenge of having to play in front of one another clearly brought out the best in each player. This reissue also features five bonus tracks that were not included on the original LP, including a special Sunnyland Slim and Blind John Davis duet and back-and-forth banter that takes the listener right inside the moment.
I'm not Hungry But I Like to Eat - Blues
The Sirens Records (SR-5001)
Pianist Erwin Helfer has been rattling floorboards in the Windy City for decades, playing a tangy mix of blues, boogie-woogie, big-band-era standards, and originals inspired by friends and pet dogs. True to form, I'm Not Hungry but I Like to Eat--Blues! finds Helfer attacking the keys with all the barroom bluster of a Chicago legend, covering songs by Jelly Roll Morton ("Sweet Substitute"), Percy Mayfield ("Please Send Me Someone to Love"), and Duke Ellington, along with some traditionals and a handful of Helfer originals. Tenor sax man John Brumbach adds ballast to four tracks, but this is Helfer's show. And while the opening salvo of "Swanee River Boogie" might suggest this is strictly an old-timers' set, Helfer's playful interpretations and skilled tinkling are bound to find favor with anyone who digs piano music.