Saturday, September 10, 2016 ♦ 6:00 PM & 8:00 PM
4545 N Lincoln Ave · The Myron R. Szold Music & Dance Hall · 773.728.6000
Erwin Helfer, a Chicago boogie woogie innovator and master, has been forging his own piano music legacy in the city for decades. 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.
Forty years ago, Barrelhouse Chuck was a student of Chicago blues piano. But today Barrelhouse Chuck is a master in his own right, and he is carrying on the tradition that he learned directly from Little Brother Montgomery, Pinetop Perkins, Sunnyland Slim, Detroit Junior, and others. Barrelhouse Chuck melds these disparate styles into his own and no other Chicago piano player has been able to do this and have the same pedigree. Billy Flynn, who is a long-time collaborator with Barrelhouse Chuck, is one of the best blues guitarists practicing his craft today.
Barrelhouse Chuck and Billy Flynn tour with Kim Wilson. Prior to their new release “Remembering the Masters”, they have several recordings with one another including Barrelhouse Chuck's “Driftin' From Town to Town” on The Sirens Records and the “Cadillac Records” movie soundtrack.
From 1965 to 1980 Elsa Harris was a musician for the renowned Thompson Community Singers of Chicago, where she collaborated with Reverend Milton Brunson and Jessy Dixon. She sang background vocals on several Chess/Cadet recordings with Minnie Ripperton and Phil Upchurch. For many years, Elsa performed with the Jessy Dixon Singers. She participated in Dixon's collaboration with Paul Simon, including appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, The Merv Griffin Show, Saturday Night Live, and the Newport Jazz Festival. She has taught gospel choir and music workshops/classes at Roosevelt University, Columbia College, and Moody Bible Institute. She currently teaches and performs at the Learn Charter Schools, Manierre Elementary School, and McCormick Theological Seminary.
Bryant Jones is the Pastor of Samaritan Bible Baptist Church where his father Reverend Billy J. Jones once served. He has worked with the AARC Mass Choir, Chicago Mass Choir, Jessy Dixon, Reverend Clay Evans and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Choir, Patti LaBelle, and Thompson Community Singers. These opportunities have allowed him to travel extensively in the United States and Europe.
Lavelle Lacy plays by ear and never took formal piano lessons. Lavelle was greatly influenced by his godmother, Isabella Joseph Johnson, a well-known gospel deejay on WVON 1450AM. When he was ten years old he started playing organ at the Harris Temple Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church (A.O.H.) on 4108 S. Cottage Grove. While he worked for the City of Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department, he also became one of the most sought out gospel keyboard players in Chicago. He played organ with many gospel stars including Inez Andrews, Jessy Dixon, Ernest Franklin, Charles Hayes, Reverend James T. Meeks, Maceo Woods, and Marvin Yancy. Currently, he plays at the New Philadelphia Baptist church.
Curtis Fondren has played drums for Vanessa Bell Armstong, The Barrett Sisters, Fontella Bass, Lester Bowie, Reverend James Cleveland, Jessy Dixon, Tramaine Hawkins, Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Operation Push Choir, Kim McFarland, David Peaston, Albertina Walker, Dionne Warwick, and others. He has recorded with Reverend Calvin Bridges, Reverend Clay Evans and the Fellowship Baptist Church Choir, Donald and Geraldine Gay, Dr. Charles G. Hayes and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer, Bishop Dwayne Mason/Leonard Maddox/Willie Jones, and others. Today, Curtis accompanies the famed Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir, under the leadership of Pastor Maceo L. Woods. Curtis has served on the musical staff of Chicago's renowned Black Ensemble Theater. He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Phil Donahue Show, WGN Morning News, and Fox Thing in the Morning.
Donald Gay is a member of the legendary Gay family and leads the Prayer Center Church of God in Christ, which was founded by his mother Fannie in 1959. Growing up with three famous, musical sisters Evelyn, Mildred, and Geraldine, who were known as the Gay Sisters Trio, Donald made a name for himself as the three year old kid preacher and the first African American to be featured on the Joe Kelly Quiz Kids Show in the 1950's. Donald is a powerful, bluesy vocalist who has made three recordings for The Sirens Records.