Sometimes we take our local treasures for granted. Erwin Helfer is one of the premier living purveyors of the myriad piano styles that have made Chicago a music mecca since the 20s, and Clark Dean's saxophone style carries echoes of Bud Freeman, Sidney Bechet, and Ben Webster, while retaining a lyrical romanticism all his own. Helfer learned from the masters, including Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim, and he's a worthy successor. He plays with seriousness and dedication but never forgets to have a good time. Dean may startle you with his unorthodox technique--he plays saxophone almost sideways--but his swinging is always straight ahead. They're one of Chicago's most enduring partnerships, and they deserve far more recognition than they've received. This weekend they're joined by veteran drummer Odie Payne and vocalist Katherine Davis, both of whom complement their bluesy sophistication with an extroverted sense of fun. Tonight and Saturday, Lilly's, 2513 N. Lincoln; 525-2422.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ken Sexton.