composer’s note: 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 lived, in a small town in New Jersey. My dad was a left-handed amateur pianist, and a huge fan of ragtime and stride music. Every time I visited his home on 4th Avenue, we would sit next to each other at the piano and gleefully play ragtime and stride classics as “duets,” where he took the left-hand part and I'd play the right-hand (with embellishments).
Because he is a self-taught pianist, my father is actually quite amazing at playing technically difficult music but never quite learned to read rhythms correctly. So we would seek out music that has a steady beat and repetitive rhythms in the left hand, because those arrangements, where he can just play one rhythm repetitively, tended 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, through the entire piece. And, "4th Avenue" 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 of illegal substances... or perhaps just running out of patience and hitting the piano a little too hard. In this way, the piece doubles as an homage to the music my dad loved but also as a virtuosic piano showpiece that goes on a surprisingly wild journey over its five minutes.