for solo piano; 5′ (2005)
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While the title “4th Avenue” may seem like a reference to New York City, this piece is actually named after the street on which my father lives, in a small town in New Jersey. My father is an left-handed amateur pianist, and a huge fan of ragtime and stride music. Every time I visit his home on 4th Avenue, we sit next to each other at the piano and gleefully play ragtime and stride classics as “duets,” where he takes the left-hand part and I play the right-hand (with embellishments). Because he is a self-taught pianist, my father is actually quite amazing at playing difficult music but never quite learned to read rhythms correctly. So we seek out music that has a steady beat and repetitive rhythms in the left hand, because those arrangements tend to work best in our impromptu duets.
So this piano piece, dedicated to my father, has an unerring stream of quarter-notes in the left hand which never changes (rhythmically) in any way. And, the piece pays homage to some of the great stride and ragtime piano composers & arrangers, evoking many of those sounds while maintaining its own sense of style. But in addition to these nods to classic jazz-inflected piano literature, “4th Avenue” takes a long journey in a short time: from a soft contemplative mood, through a joyous dance-like section, and into a crashing cacophony that sounds something like stride piano played under the influence. In this way, the piece doubles as an homage to the music my dad loves but also as a dramatic showpiece that goes on a surprisingly wild journey over its five minutes.