Harlem Strut Fantasy

for two pianos, four hands

Harlem Strut Fantasy (2008) was inspired by, and incorporates a direct quotation of James P. Johnson’s Harlem Strut, as performed and recorded to piano roll in 1922. James P. Johnson is one of the pioneers of jazz with significant compositions including the Charleston, You’ve Got to Be Modernistic, Carolina Shout, and Snowy Morning Blues. He wrote compositions in many styles including jazz, Broadway musicals, opera, symphonic works, and ballets. James P. Johnson was Fats Waller’s teacher and is considered one of the originators or “stride” piano, a style of which his composition Harlem Strut is a prime example. James P. Johnson worked for the Aeolian Company and the QRS Piano Roll Company.

Harlem Strut Fantasy begins with my abstract variations on the main themes found within Harlem Strut. As the work progresses, snippets of the James P. Johnson original begin to emerge. Eventually, an exact quotation of the original piano roll is stated along with punctuating gestures that are based upon earlier material.

I am indebted to Bob Pinsker, who transcribed the original piano roll into a MIDI file, saving me weeks of transcription work. I am also grateful to the James P. Johnson Foundation for providing me with the permission to use the original work as a part of this composition. I would also like to thank the Denton chapter of the Texas Music Teachers Association for inviting me to compose a work for their exceptional piano ensemble team. Most importantly, I am grateful to James P. Johnson for writing such a wonderful composition that has captivated my attention and inspired this new work.

click on the link below to download a PDF score