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Filmmaker Palfi Shoots Self

Jazz filmmaker Stevenson J. Palfi died at his home in New Orleans on Dec. 14 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 53. Family members told the Times-Picayune that Palfi had been severely depressed since Hurricane Katrina damaged most of his property and possessions last August.

Palfi’s most remembered work was his documentary detailing the lives of three New Orleans jazzmen, titled Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together. The 1982 film features three generations of pianists, from Isidore “Tuts” Washington to Henry Roeland, known as Professor Longhair, to Alan Toussaint.

Before his death, he was in the final stages of production of a feature-length film on Toussaint, titled Songwriter, Unknown. Future plans for the film, 15 years in the making, remain unknown. Palfi’s work also included a 13-week series of documentaries and short films for the Learning Channel, hosted by friend and actor Martin Sheen.

Palfi grew up in Chicago and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Clark University in Worchester, Mass. At the time of his death, he had been living with his former wife and co-producer Polly Waring in her home in the Mid-City area, one of the few homes there that was habitable.

Survivors include his daughter, Nell; his father, Alfred; and his sister Cynthia Penfold.

Originally Published