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1982 Stevenson J. Palfi, 2011 re-issue Nell Palfi and Pauline Waring
running time 76 minutes
Stevenson J. Palfi’s remarkable look at three generations of New Orleans keyboard masters – “Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together” – was produced in 1982 on the pre-historic Quadruplex video format. It was shot with an RCA TK-76 camera and recorded on one-inch (type “c”) analog videotape (NTSC).
Now, 30 years later, “Piano Players” has been painstakingly digitally restored by Blaine Dunlap of The Southeastern Media Preservation Lab with the support of a generous grant from George Winston. The 30th Anniversary edition is now available on DVD.
“Piano Players” is a 76 minute portrait of three great New Orleans pianists and how they influenced one another’s music. It documents the best piano “professors” of the last three generations — New Orleans’ keyboard aces Isidore “Tuts” Washington, Henry “Professor Longhair” Byrd, and Allen Toussaint — as they played together for the first time in a rehearsal for a joint concert. The rehearsal turned out to be the ONLY time the three ever played together, because Professor Longhair died two days before the scheduled performance.
The documentary takes viewers through the very personal and sacred New Orleans tradition of a jazz wake and funeral procession for Professor Longhair, which was taped at the encouragement of his widow, Alice. Also included is the previously planned concert with Toussaint and Washington, who turned the event into a tribute to Fess.
Released to critical acclaim in 1982, “Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together” is considered by many to be one of the most important and exciting explorations of New Orleans’ musical tradition ever made. It is the winner of over 20 awards.