Erwin Helfer (born January 20, 1936) is an American boogie-woogie, blues and jazz pianist.

Biography

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, United States, as a child Helfer was more interested in classical music than blues. Helfer was introduced to piano blues as a young teenager growing up in Chicago in the early 1950s. Once Helfer discovered the blues he enrolled at Tulane University in New Orleans, completing college with a degree in music. He spent time outside of class studying the piano style of Crescent City pianists Archibald and Professor Longhair. Helfer began his professional career when Estelle Yancey, wife of pianist and boogie-woogie pioneer Jimmy Yancey, coaxed him to fill in for her accompanist, Little Brother Montgomery. His initial performance with Yancey led to a long-term professional partnership with the singer that lasted to her death in 1986 at age ninety.

In 1982 Helfer began his own record company, Red Beans, and released albums by Estelle Yancey, Blind John Davis, Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, and other Chicago blues artists. He was nominated for the Blues Music Awards in 2003, for 'Comeback Blues Album of the Year', for his CD I'm Not Hungry But I Like To Eat - Blues. Recently he has played at the Chicago Jazz Festival, 2005-2007; Hungary's Debrecen Jazz Festival, 2005, the Chicago Blues Festival, in June 2010, and throughout Chicago's blues clubs.

Selective discography

Year

Title

Genre

Label

1974

Blues, Boogie Woogie Piano Duets & Solos

Blues, Boogie

Flying Fish

1976

Boogie Piano Chicago Style

Boogie

Big Bear

1979

On the Sunny Side of The Street

Blues, Jazz

Flying Fish

1987

Chicago Piano

Blues, Jazz

Red Beans

2001

I'm Not Hungry But I Like To Eat - Blues

Blues, Boogie, Jazz

Sirens

2003

St. James Infirmary (with Skinny Williams)

Jazz, Blues and R&B

Sirens

2005

Careless Love

Blues, Boogie, Jazz

The Sirens Records