Label: Red Beans Records - RB 010 • Format: Vinyl LP, Album • Country: US • Genre: Jazz, Blues • Style: Chicago Blues, Piano Blues
March 17, Music Music Review. Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe. Even in its heyday, the early 50s, the music popularly known as "Chicago blues"--traditional country blues laid over a citified rhythm section and augmented by amplified instruments--did not dominate the charts. Despite the monumental artistic achievements of the blues artists, their records enjoyed only occasional commercial success.
Roosevelt Sykes was a traditional, Delta-style pianist when he first hit Chicago ina seminal member of the generation of pianists largely responsible for defining the hard-driving piano style that characterized Chicago blues through the s. As a historical document and reminder of a sometimes-forgotten facet of a great bluesman's musical personality, it's a fascinating record. For blues lovers, however, the bag is decidedly mixed. United obviously intended to reach those in the mainstream black audience who were unimpressed by the era's revolutionary updating of traditional country blues by the likes of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, and their contemporaries.
From the opening bars of "Fine and Brown," the first cut on this LP, the sound is characterized by bubbling ground swells of saxophones, sophisticated T-Bone Walker-style guitar accompaniment, and a vocal style that finds Sykes sometimes straining to sound like a higher-voiced Joe Williams.
When it works, it's very entertaining. Bluesy, sophisticated, augmented by a gritty tenor solo by Robert "Sax" Crowder and featuring Sykes's voice at its most suave, it's a joyful marriage of blues, jazz, and pop.
Sykes's piano playing here manages to allude constantly to his roots, even if his vocal style often does not. He introduces even the most pop-oriented After Work Its Just Me And A Empty Chair Blues - Erwin Helfer - Plays Chicago Piano with treble flurries straight out of a Delta juke, before sitting back to let the lush band and slick arrangements create the emotionally restrained, uptown pop feel that permeates most of these cuts.
Both "Lucky Blues" and "Raining in My Heart" illustrate the somewhat uncomfortable musical compromise that resulted from this approach. The down-home piano intros quickly segue into a burbling sax chorus and loping pop rhythms; the music is saved from mediocrity only by some elegant guitar accompaniment and Sykes's irrepressible sense of fun. It's interesting to note, however, that Howlin' Wolf's Memphis sessions featured instrumentation very similar to that accompanying Sykes on these cuts.
Wolf's primal power was so raw and overwhelming that he created music of burning emotional impact out of the very tension of disparate styles. Here, the slickness all too often threatens to smother Sykes's blues. The most enduring moments on this LP, to my blues-loving ears, are the ones when Sykes refrains from impersonating a crooner and Slayer - Hell Awaits close to the styles he learned during his scuffling days in the Mississippi delta.
Likewise, "Too Hot to Handle" starts off with a piano intro borrowed from Pinetop Smith's classic "Pinetop's Boogie-Woogie" and remains delightfully in that vein. Sykes's playful vocal asides are reminiscent of Fats Waller's clowning, and the instrumentation features a surprising but effective jazz violin solo by Remo Biondi. Biondi's work here illuminates the link between traditional black southern string band music, western swing, and latter-day jazz violin, and it all dances joyfully around Sykes's wide-fingered After Work Its Just Me And A Empty Chair Blues - Erwin Helfer - Plays Chicago Piano attack to create a mood of romping abandon.
Not even the most inappropriate arrangements could overshadow that entirely. Still, United attempted some utterly unsuccessful experiments to update Girl You Know Its True - Various - Het Beste Uit De Top 40 Van T Jaar 1988 sound, and a few are included here. Biondi's violin, jazzy and exhilarating on the up-tempo shuffles, is absolutely bizarre as it saws eerily away in the background of ballads like " Blues"; "Tell Me True" is a trite bit of pop fluff, rescued only by a gently swinging sax solo by J.
Brown; and the nadir is probably "Toy Piano Blues," featuring Sykes attempting to coax meaningful sounds out of a celesta. Sykes was obviously a sensitive soloist, and this was probably an ill-conceived attempt to feature him on an instrument that would let some of his subtleties and musical playfulness shine through, but the result is only embarrassing. Fats Waller on pipe organ this ain't. I can already hear musicians accusing me of trying to force a master artist into the bag of my own definitions of "authenticity," which is what critics have attempted to do to B.
King for over 20 years. But I have nothing against an artist expanding his horizons. It's just that there's a very real condescension to the listening audience in some of these attempts to water down Sykes's sound.
The implication is that raw, unvarnished blues would somehow be too harsh, too jarring, or too real for most listeners.
The good, swinging cuts on this LP retain their breezy enjoyability some 35 years after they were recorded; the schlock cuts are a reminder of what the music industry has done to some of the most vital and profound music this century has produced.
It has been left to students of Sykes's generation to rekindle the musical fires their mentors lit. It's difficult to realize that this musician who sat at the feet of so many greats is himself in his early 50s and approaching elder statesman status, despite his boyish good looks and the unblemished joy that runs through his music. Chicago Piano finds Helfer displaying the range of his considerable musical and emotional gifts.
He starts out, characteristically, with a lilting improvisation on the opening lines of "All of Me" that sounds almost like an emulation of Earl "Fatha" Hines, then breaks into a charging boogie-woogie. Throughout this record, Helfer displays a delightfully irreverent willingness to imbue jazz and pop standards with a hard-driving boogie rhythm, even as he flows gently into slow blues and ballads.
His playfulness is subtly evident in some of the over-and-under-the-melody directions he takes "Nobody Knows," but his melancholy musings and gently rolling stride call to mind an intimate late-night living room where a wise old piano professor is laying down the essence of jazz to a circle of good friends. Most of the cuts here range from sensitive, bluesy interpretations of classics to romping boogie-woogie celebrations. An exception, "These Foolish Things" is a straight-ahead ballad that has more to do with a sophisticated piano bar than with either Basin Street or 47th Street in Chicago.
The influence of jazzmen like Erroll Garner is well in evidence here, and it's a fine piece of work. But Helfer's most entertaining moments find him solidly in his element: traditional blues and jazz laced with driving boogie-woogie.
The most impressive cut in this genre is "C. Rider," which finds Helfer turning the basic boogie-woogie bass pattern inside out Sexy Eyes - Various - Winter Gaudi - Die Coolen Hits Für Heiße Parties back against itself. The music's almost Monk-like in its eccentricity, but Helfer's driving right hand keeps it comfortably close to the blues. As is so often the case, the ballads linger most in the memory.
Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans" is a melancholy, sentimental tribute to the cradle of jazz that Helfer treats with appropriate respect. Ivory Joe Hunter's well-worn "Since I Lost My Baby" is saved from staleness by Helfer's decision to pass by the standard pop-ballad approach to the tune and dig deep into its bluesy soul.
The introductory flurries and some of the right-hand treble rolls here are as pure an example of traditional blues as this LP has to offer. Erwin The Blue Ridge Quartet - Theres A Great Day Coming reminds one of the late trumpeter Clifford Brown in his essential ebullience. Whether he's inserting a sly quote from Monk's "Misterioso" into the middle of "After Work It's Just Me and a Empty Chair Blues," oompah-ing like a calliope with his left hand to add a puckish touch to "C.
Rider," or slipping a sacrilegious boogie bass line into a jazz classic like "Take the "A' Train," Helfer combines a love of jazz tradition with a joyful sense of exploration. That this LP may be definitive is good news. Better news is that Helfer's still active and playing. Go out and enjoy. You Make Things Happen Every dollar you give helps fund the experienced, diverse journalists and editors producing the Reader.
Because the media landscape has changed, your Elainraadot Hintana - Rattus - The Poko Recordings 1981 - 1984 makes everything we do possible. Please give what you can to help keep journalism independent and thriving in Chicago.
The Reader : We speak Chicago to Chicagoans. Choose your monthly contribution level:. Tags: Music ReviewAfter Work Its Just Me And A Empty Chair Blues - Erwin Helfer - Plays Chicago Piano . Switch to the mobile version of this page.
The Chicago Reader. Subscribe to this thread:. By Email. With RSS. More by David Whiteis. Trending in the Alternative Press. Agenda Teaser Popular Stories Read. Gossip Wolf. Plus: Online ecology publication Mid Magazine launches with an Ariel Zetina mix, and Thalia Hall hosts a benefit for pediatric brain tumor research. Nelson and Leor Galil In Rotation. Plus: Drummer Tim Daisy on a fresh take on a classic Brazilian sound, Reader music editor Philip Montoro on a gorgeous art-rock record going extinct, and more.
By Philip Montoro Concert Preview. By Bill Meyer By Monica Kendrick Music Feature. The Black, Brown, and Indigenous Crew connects underground music with radical politics to make a community with room for everyone. By Kerry Cardoza By Noah Berlatsky Slideshow Video. Anioł - Mołr Drammaz - tu! Purple One could hardly have avoided influencing a genre whose earliest, most Soy - Marcos Del Valle - Coma fans were queer Black and Brown kids.
By Jack Riedy Music Review. By Bill Wyman
Ebony Eyes - Rick James - Cold Blooded, Baby Let Me Kiss You - Fern Kinney - Baby Let Me Kiss You / Together We Are Beautiful, Rammstein (Eskimos & Egypt Instrumental Edit) - Rammstein - MP3 Collection, Мусоргский. Великие Ворота Киева - Various - Мировая Классика В Современной Обработке, Now - Ronnie Dyson - Phase 2