Piano Red

The Lost Atlanta Tapes

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Piano Red died on July 25, 1985, and The Lost Atlanta Tapes, an album drawn from a set he played at the Excelsior Mill in Atlanta, GA, is billed as his final recording, which is quite possible, since it was made in 1984. Not actually "lost," apparently, the tape has been in the possession of Michael Reeves, who ran the Excelsior Mill and has waited 26 years to give it a commercial release. Piano Red may have been near the end of his life, but there is nothing valedictory or elegiac about his performance here. On the contrary, appearing with a bass player and drummer, he is an enthusiastic entertainer, acting as a cheerleader for his audience as he goes from blues tunes to stride piano and boogie-woogie numbers. One of his fellow musicians can be heard calling out each successive song on the set list to the headliner, which seems as good a way to get through the performance as any. It doesn't matter what individual song Piano Red is playing; he always throws himself into it. This has the feel of a representative show, documenting what a typical hour with Piano Red sounded like over the many years that he performed in Atlanta clubs, long after his heyday but still vibrant, intent on helping his listeners have a good time.

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