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Learning About Ted Curson - Matthew Stewart

Matthew StewartUpcoming on the PJP calendar is the Bill Barron/Ted Curson Celebration. This event features a local, all-star band that we named after one of Ted Curson's compositions; Quicksand. The ensemble is lead by Wilmington, Delaware-based trumpeter, Matthew Stewart. A student of trumpeter Donald Byrd, Stewart works with Sonic Liberation Front, and the Wilmington Creative Music Collective. He performed with PJP’s Another Holiday For Skins ensemble and participated in Lush Life: Philadelphia Celebrates Billy Strayhorn as part of the OutBeat Jazz festival. Matthew Stewart has also toured the world with the band Streetlight Manifesto and attended New Jersey City University.


We spoke with Matthew Stewart about Ted Curson, Donald Byrd and this project, after a recent Quicksand rehearsal.


PJP: What encouraged you to do this Ted Curson tribute?


Matthew Stewart: Well the thing that interested me the most was I really hadn't seen a tribute show for him. He's such a major player, that's sorta outside of the center echelon of guys, but he's in there. He's still heavy and strong. Yet, you don't see a lot of concerts showcasing his music. So, I was like, “I need to jump on that.” A for the learning. But B, for being one of the first to do it.


PJP: As a student of Donald Byrd, what have you learned from doing this Ted Curson project?


Matthew Stewart: Being a Donald Byrd student and then, coming across the Ted Curson repertoire, you find between those two men, their coming along in a time when the scene is littered with these epic players. Then out of these epic players, you have these guys who are writing these compositions that making themselves as prominent. Meaning basically that you have these players that are like kinda taking up the whole scene, and then, you have these genius men who are kinda creating their own vibes in composition. And Donald Byrd is definitely one of them. Coming out of the Bebop thing with Herbie and Trane. The first cross-over guy is actually Donald Byrd. You know? So, you can see that genius clearly in Ted Curson’s music, especially in the songs we’re playing on this concert. They start out as Bebop, and then, by the time they end it’s just music. It’s not Jazz. It’s not this or that. It’s just music…. American music. And it’s clear as day, that Ted Curson and Donald Byrd, even Miles Davis and many trumpet players saw that. They were seeing something bigger than air quotes to the Jazz pantheon. It’s like, there’s more people to speak for and to with music. So, that’s definitely something I saw with those two artists.


PJP: What excites you with this project?


Matthew Stewart: Well, the thing that excites me is that, Ted Curson’s compositions seem like they are purposely constructed to be close to standard and then, not standard at all. And I really love that. I love that about his tunes. Whereas you think you’re going to be playing over a certain chord progression and then, it will be completely different. And then instead of the head repeating, it keeps going into a B section. It’s exciting. It’s exciting music to be able to play and express yourself in a masterful way.


Also, the amazing the guys we’ve got in the group. There’s tenor saxophonist, Terry Lawson who works with the Sun Ra Arkestra. He’s in the group. Tenor saxophonist and childhood friend of Ted Curson, Sam Reed is in the group. Vocalist, Carol Harris is in the group. Drummer Lamar Prince is in the group. So, most of those people are almost three times my age. Definitely twice my age. So, it’s to be able to stand next to them and to get that real sound that you’re hearing from them, and then, see what you can do. Can you live up to it? You know? That’s the really exciting part… the challenge.


Celebrating Bill Barron & Ted Cursonbarron curson

Featuring The Makanda Project & Quicksand

Friday October 16th, 2015 at 7:30pm

American Philosophical Society

427 Chestnut Street Phila., PA 19106


Tickets: $15 in advance/$20 at the door

Get Tickets Here!


Matthew Stewart - trumpet
Ryan Frazier - trumpet
Dan Blacksberg - trombone
Terry Lawson - tenor sax
Tim Brey - piano
Sunny Sunkett - bass
Lamar Prince - drums
Mark Griffith - drums - special guest
Carol Harris - vocals - special guest
James Solomon - poetry - special guest
Sam Reed - tenor sax - special guest






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