Title: Main Stem
Artist: Duke Ellington


Composer: Ellington
Publisher: EMI Robbins Music
CD: The Blanton-Webster Band
Label: RCA
(c) and (p) 1986 RCA/Ariola International. All Rights Reserved.
Recording Date: June 26, 1942
Personnel: Wallace Jones, Ray Nance, and Rex Stewart, trumpets; Tricky Sam Nanton, Lawrence Brown, and Juan Tizol, trombones; Barney Bigard, clarinet; Johnny Hodges, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Harry Carney, baritone sax, clarinet, alto sax; Otto Hardwick, alto sax, basssax; Ben Webster, tenor sax; Duke Ellington, piano; Billy Strayhorn, piano; Fred Guy, guitar; Jimmy Blanton, bass; Sonny Greer, drums; Ivy Anderson and Herb Jeffries, vocals; Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, arrangers
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Title: Main Stem
Artist: Duke Ellington
Type of Tune: swing
Tempo: 212 BPM
Key: D Major
Form: 12 bar blues with interlude, bridge, and coda
Devices: repeated melodic patterns that horn sections play behind soloist; dramatic effects by horn players, including sliding, slurring, and noises mimicking yells and cries
Scale(s): major, blues, pentatonic, melodic minor
Recurring Patterns: repeated melodic patterns that horn sections play behind soloist
Developmental Techniques: horn sections play different patterns behind each soloist, giving the piece forward motion and a story-like quality

General Comments:

Duke Ellington was known to use his orchestra as a laboratory for discovering new approaches to sound, harmony, and rhythm. Indeed, Ellington learned through his band how to create a wide array of dramatic effects and colors. On "Main Stem," the harmony follows the basic 12 bar blues pattern. The excitement in this tune can be found in the lively solos, which employ human and animal imitations, and their relationship to melodies played by the horn sections. The tune features trombone, clarinet, trumpet, cornet, and sax solos, which sometimes float above background horn melodies and sometimes answer them. At times, the soloist seems to answer the horn sections before they have completed their melody, using overlapping call and response. Towards the end of the tune, a new chord progression is introduced for the last two soloists which helps to build tension.