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Man with Four Sides is one of Ellington’s theatrical projects.
In Music Is My Mistress, Ellington says that he wrote it in 1955 when the band played for several weeks at the 1955 version of Billy Rose’s Aquacades – a famous music, dance and swimming show – in New York.
“I had very little to do so I could go and get some work done at home”. That was when I wrote my play, Man with Four Sides“.
It was obviously meant for Broadway but like many other of his projects of this kind, it never made it there.
Man with Four Sides is a musical in three acts with a white couple Mr. and Mrs. Lane as the main characters together with “Streamline” Smith” and Moiselle.
Martha Washington Penoctbottom Lane is a prudish lady who keeps her husband Otho Lane in tight reins while Otho is fascinated by a woman in his dreams.
Smith, whose wife has left him, is a neighbor to the Lane couple and he sings the blues all day, while Moiselle is a real-life incarnation of the woman Mr. Lane sees and hears in his dreams.
John Franceschina’s book Duke Ellington’s Music for the Theatre has a detailed description of the story (pages 87-92 paper back version)
Ellington wrote the book, the music and the lyrics for the musical.
He composed six original songs:
She (aka Sensuous), Come On Home, Weatherman (aka How Does It Look For Tomorrow), She Didn’t Have Much To Say, It’s Rumour, Twilightime
and put text to the second blues theme of Happy-Go-Lucky-Local and called it Train Blues (aka Like A Train). The Blues from Black, Brown and Beige is also scripted to be sung in the musical.
In addition, lyrics for 8 songs, for which no music exists, have been found.
The play seems to have been in the making for a long time. John Franceschina says in his book that “the germ of the work began in the 1940s in the notes for a script entitled Mr. and Mrs. Lane“.
However, the Danish jazz researcher and jazz critic Erik Wiedeman, who spent two months in 1989 researching documents on the musical in the Ellington Archive at the Smithsonian and who also located recordings of music for it, considers that the real work work on the musical started in the early 1950s.
One of the key songs in the musical – She – was recorded by The Coronets for Mercer Records in April 1951 but it also exists in an earlier piano solo version. She was recorded together with three other songs for the musical in a kind of rehearsal session by Ellington, Jimmy Grissom and Wendell Marshall in July 1952.
A month earlier the full Ellington orchestra had recorded Come On Home in a session for Columbia.
Erik Wiedemann presented his research on Man with Four Sides to the Ellington ’90 conference in Ottawa. He was given only some 40 minutes to do it so he chose to focus on the music.
He let the audience listen to some of the recorded songs mentioned above but also to a NBC radio broadcast from 28 august 1955 in which Ellington gives a a synopsis of the show and Jimmy Grissom and Marion Cox accompanied by Luther Henderson (p) and Jimmy Woode (b) sing four of its songs – Like A Train, She, It’s Rumour and Twilight Time .
Wiedemann also provided a handout to accompany his presentation. It details the songs of the musical and is available here. “Thank you” to Roger Boyes for having provided it to the website.
After the conference, Wiedemann expanded his presentation into an article, which was published in the Danish journal “Musik & forskning” no. 16 1990-1991. It has an annex with detailed information about the music for Man with Four Arms.
It is is available here.
Sources for the web article:
Erik Wiedemann: Presentation at Ellington ’90
Erik Wiedemann: På sporet af Man with Four Side
John Franceschina: Duke Ellington’s Music for the Theatre
The program of the Ellington ’92 conference also included a presentation on the Mercer Ellington donation to Danish Radio. It was delivered by Erik Wiedemann, Bjarne Busk and Flemming Sjølund Jensen.
Photo: Bjarne Busk
First Erik Wiedemann spoke about Mercer Ellington’s donation of 781 Ellington tapes to Danish Radio on the condition that it would properly mixed onto new tapes.
Then Bjarne Busk and Flemming Sjølund Jensen followed up by letting the audience listen to examples from the archive.
Busk talked among other things about his excitement when he listened to the first tape, which started with what turned out to be Pastel from the Degas Suite. He also gave some figures on the donation. 443 tapes were studio recordings from 128 dates. There was also 69 tapes with live recordings from 35 occasions and 53 tapes with interviews of Ellington.
Photo: Bjarne Busk
Busk finished his presentation by playing a recording from the Aug. 18, 1966 session “which will never be issued” but also other examples from the tapes were included in it.
Sjølund Jensen focused his presentation on an untitled blues recorded on Nov. 23, 1968 and used it to demonstrate “how Ellington and the band developed their material”. He very much featured Lawrence Brown in his clips.
The file with the Copenhagen Sep. 30, 1959 concert made available to DESS members on Jan. 26 turns out to be something totally different. It brings together selections from Ellington’s concert in Paris on Sep.20, 1959 (both first and second concerts) and the second concert in Stockholm on Sep. 26, 1959.
We apologize for having put it on the website and thank Bjarne Busk for bringing the issue to our attention.
However, when the file was published, it was believed to be a genuine recording of the Copenhagen concert.
It was found by the DESS group charged with cataloguing Benny Åslund’s tape collection, which had been donated to DESS.
In the fall of 2011, the group sent the file together with a number of files of Ellington concerts in Sweden to Sjef Hoefsmit, who wrote about them in the 2012-1 issue of the DEMS Bulletin.
Under the headline A lot of Swedish NEW FINDS, he reported what the group had found. Amongst other things Hoefsmit said “A totally unknown (to us) concert is from Copenhagen, 30Sep59, K.B. Hallen”.
He followed this up by publishing a correction sheet (1107) to NDESOR with the “new” information.
So, not surprisingly, the DESS group thought that they had found an unknown recording of the Copenhagen concert.
However, what Hoefsmit forgot when he said “a totally unknown concert to him was that 20 years earlier at the Ellington conference in Los Angeles in 1991, he had said and written that the concert was “a fake” in a review of the 3rd edition of the Willie Timner’s Ellingtonia”. He repeated this in comments on Timner’s 4th edition in the DEMS Newsletter 2001-3.
Hoefsmit built his view on a presentation Erik Wiedemann made at the Ellington conference in Washington D.C. in 1989. Wiedemann had by then published a very detailed paper on Ellington’s visits to Denmark and recordings made of the concerts there. As regards the 1959 concert, he says: “There seems to be no recordings of the concerts.”
The source of the “fake” file is not known to us but it was apparently rather widely circulated among Ellington collectors. Benny Åslund had it, Willie Timner had it and it is also listed in the catalogue for the auction of more than 100 reel-to-reel tapes belonging tho the French Ellington collector André Mahus, which Sjef Hoefsmit (!) organised for his widow.
The Jan. 26 article on the website has been deleted. However, the file in the Goodies Room will stay there for the time being and a list of its contents is here.
The Danish bass player and radioman Erik Moseholm was another speaker on this theme. His topic was the Danish bass tradition and the inspiration of Ellington’s basists on it. He talked about the guitarist/basist Niels Foss the first major Danish bass player, Oscar Pettiford, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and of course about himself. The classical bass teacher Oscar Hegner and his 4-finger-technique features also prominently in the presentation.
Moseholm’s presentation was followed by a live demonstration by two – at that time – young Danish bass players, Jesper Lundgaard and Mads Vinding. Unfortunately, the performance was not recorded, presumably for copyright reasons.
Another major theme for the conference was “The Passing on of The Ellington Tradition“.
Stanley Crouch was the first speaker on this theme. In his presentation “The Temporary Significance of Duke Ellington” he talked a lot about the early roots of jazz and placed Ellington in this context.
It was followed by a panel discussion, in which Crouch participated together with Andrew Homzy, Peter Watrous and Erik Wiedeman. The topic of the panel was Recreating Ellington – Problems and Rewards.
The chairman of the panel, Dan Morgenstern, asked it to focus on “to what extent is it possible to create/recreate Ellington’s music”. He also brought in the issue: “How can Ellington’s legacy best be used in today’s jazz”.
This led to an interesting discussion with comments with relevance also today.
The 10th Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Copenhagen May 28-31, 1992.
The lead organisers of the conference were Arnvid Meyer, Niels Toft and Karl Emil Knudsen – three leading figures in the Danish jazz and Ellington community. They organised the conference together with the recently founded “The Scandinavian Duke Ellington Society – Danish Chapter”.
It followed in the path of previous Ellington conferences and offered an ambitious program mixing musical events and presentations.
Unfortunately only recordings of the presentations are available and they are sound recording made by the organisers. It seems as if Benny Åslund, who attended the conference, did some filming but the videos have not been found so far.
Photo Bjarne Busk
Bjarne Busk was one of the participants in the conference. He remembers it as “a serious one, with a lot of information, and a lot of music”.
“On the first day of the conference, nine jazzclubs in Copenhagen had organized concerts and sessions linked to the conference and the conference participants had got 2 tickets to use how they liked.
At one of the places Mercer Ellington conducted a fine Danish big band. I also remember the closing dance with groups of musicians, including Buster Cooper and Clark Terry, and some with the great swedes Rolf Billberg, Arne Domnerus and Rolf Ericson.”
Bo Haufman was another participants. He was one of the first to register for the conference. “I was actually the third one to do so”, he says. “The Falconer Center in Copenhagen was the conference venue and it was absolutely perfect for this.
Leonard Feather is one of the presenters Bo remembers particularly well. “He started his presentation by saying “Duke is not dead”
“It was also very interesting to hear Erik Moseholm presentation about the inspiration of Ellington’s bass player to the Danish Bass Tradition bearing in mind that Denmark is known for its excellent bass player.”
“Among the many musical events, I remember in particular a concert by Arne Domnérus och Bengt Hallberg, says Bo also. “They had composed a special number called ”Jazz Å Du”.
Arnvid Meyer chaired the first session of the conference.
One angle in the program was Ellington in Denmark. Erik Wiedemann – Mr. Jazz in Denmark – was the first presenter on this theme. He talked about four Danish jazz recording with a strong Ellington influence.
The first one was Copenhagen Rhapsody played by the leading Danish big band in the early 30’s led by Erik Tuxen. Then Wiedemann gave the audience first a recording by a piano-bass combo with Borge Roger Henrichsen and Niels Foss, which played Preludium in C followed by Donkey Party played by a band led by Leo Mathisen. Both of them from the early 1940’s when Denmark was under occupation.
Wiedeman’s last example was actually a 1990 recording of an Ellington composition – The Mooche – but played in avant-guard way by Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra.
The third “goodie” for September is program 17 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
As usual, it is available in the ”Goodies of the Month” section of the DESS Lobby (DESS-rummet).
The program was broadcasted on March 22, 1985 and the presenter is Erik Wiedeman.
It is – like the following broadcast on March 29, 1985 – entirely devoted to the music of the ballett “The River”. There will be a separate article about this ballett on the website in November.
Wiedeman has chosen the music to make it possible to follow how the music for the different scenes (or movements) were developed by Ellington. The program gives (or was meant to give) both piano versions and full orchestral versions of the music for three of the scenes of the ballett.
The broadcast starts with the orchestral version of “The Giggling Rapids” (aka “Grap”) recorded on June 3, 1973. It is the fourth movement of the suite.
It then moves on to two piano versions of “The River”. The first one recorded on May 11 has an extra piano line dubbed in. It is kept also in the second version recorded two weeks later when Joe Benjamin, bass was added. “The River” is the opening and closing movement of the suite.