Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together | Chicago Reader

Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together

76 minutes 1982

This 1982 documentary begins with an auspicious proposal: assembling legendary New Orleans pianists Isidore "Tuts" Washington, Henry "Professor Longhair" Byrd, and Allen Toussaint for a joint performance, the first time all three would've ever appeared onstage together. Yet the story turned unexpectedly poignant when Byrd died during filming. Director Stevenson J. Palfi shot everything on videotape, and 35 years later this choice gives the movie a raw immediacy. He got incredible footage of Byrd's funeral, with the people of New Orleans crowding the streets. Yet the highlight is watching the musicians at work as their hands dance and cascade along the keyboards. What Palfi captured isn't just a unique moment in time but also the historical continuity of New Orleans music—it passes through generations of entertainers, supported along the way by local audiences, and reverberates through concert halls, bars, parades, and radios.

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