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Matthew Stewart - The Freedmans Bureau Suite

Matthew Stewart Mixtape Cover


Since 2014, The Mysterious Traveler Concert Series, which takes place at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia in downtown, Philadelphia has become one of the most exciting musical events in the city. This innovative series directly celebrates the massive and amazing collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia by granting our performers access to explore them as a source of inspiration for the creation of new musical works and arrangements. The series has introduced dozens of local artists to thousands of Philadelphia audience members. It has presented such awesome talents as Anwar Marshall, Elijah Thomas, Brent White, Bernard Samuel, Madison Rast, Victor North, Najwa Parkins, Dan Hanrahan and many more. The series continues with presentations by a superbly-talented collective of some of its finest performers called The Mysterious Traveler All Stars.


Matthew Stewart Ensemble


One of the many fine artists to participate in this series, as well as to serve as a member of The Mysterious Traveler All Stars is Matthew Stewart: A talented Wilmington, Delaware-based trumpeter and student of legendary brass icon Donald Byrd. Stewart works with Sonic Liberation Front, The Wilmington Creative Music Collective and is a touring member of New Jersey-based, Ska Punk band, Streetlight Manifesto. He participated in PJP’s Another Holiday For Skins concert, Lush Life: Philadelphia Celebrates Billy Strayhorn, the Satellites Are Spinning: A Sizzling, Sonic Celebration of Sun Ra concert series and served as music director for PJP’s, Ted Curson tribute ensemble, Quicksand. Matthew Stewart attended New Jersey City University.


Freedmen's Bureau Cartoon


This mixtape, The Freedman’s Bureau Suite by Matthew Stewart - A Mysterious Traveler Mixtape showcases his talents as composer. performer and bandleader. In this project, Stewart investigated the post-Civil War era agency established by Congress to help millions of former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. To read our earlier interview with Matthew Stewart about this project CLICK HERE.


With the release of this mixtape, PJP asked trumpeter Matthew Stewart to revisit the project and to share his thoughts.

PJP: Looking back on your Mysterious Traveler concert at the Free Library back in February 2017, what, if anything did you learn from the process of composing and performing this music?


Matthew Stewart With BellsMatthew Stewart: Wow, what a long time ago. These recordings are always a pleasant surprise for me to re-listen to. So raw and honest. At the time of the recording, it was winter, which can be a time of lean for musicians. I was tasked with doing some research and writing a piece about it. I chose to research the paper genocide of indigenous peoples and how over the course of roughly 100 years their names and tribes were changed and erased and many of the changed races being to “Black” or “Negro” I found it interesting at the time due to the social climate of the country. I basically wanted to prove an overarching history and bloodline of “Black People” that extended beyond Africa and beyond those others commonly understood.



Anyway it was a great experience. As far as how writing the piece went, I spent lots of time researching the post-Civil War / Reconstruction period and I wanted to provide a soundtrack for 90 years of census changes. It was a thing. I was really surprised at how it turned out. Musicians are busy, so with limited rehearsal time this became an acceptable homage to the event and the concept.


PJP: Tell us a little about the ensemble that performed with you?


Matthew Stewart: The band members were primarily people I knew from Wilmington, Delaware. I wanted to bring out the elders, the dudes that put me on the track. I owed it to them. So many great people in the community that are seldom heard, or given proper acclaim for their cultivated talent.

The keyboardist is Dexter Koontz, whom I met when I was very young while coming to jam sessions in Wilmington. He and his wife, Alfie Moss have been local heroes for many years. They taught us all. On alto sax, was the great, Ron Sutton who I also met at the jams in Wilmington at the Christina Cultural Arts Center. I met Ron when I was like 16 years old. He had studied with Jackie McLean. Ron was well known on the east coast and was seen as being an amazing musician and representative of the culture. He passed away, two years ago and this recording is one of the best examples of his mastery. No one can't touch his playing, don’t matter who you are!!


On drums is Aaron Walker, a friend of mine from the Wilmington contingent that has been a well known fixture of the community for years, as well as being an amazing player. He held the whole thing together. Finally, on bass is my friend Ehud Guy. I met him playing in Philly and he was kind enough to grace me with his time and effort for the presentation. He is from Israel and lived in New York City in the mid 90’s. A heavy dude.


PJP: How has this experience influenced your creative output since then?


Matthew Stewart: I feel very blessed to have been able to have this experience because, I needed the conformation that I could do it. I needed from somewhere to come a value for what I thought and hoped I could contribute. A big part of being an artist for me is removing the doubt that I am who I say and think I am. This has to be proven to the self daily in order to progress and usually you have to prove it to yourself before 9:00am. This presentation and recording really helped with that at a time when for me, it wasn’t quite clear. I am thankful to Homer Jackson and the folks at the PJP for giving me the opportunity to be myself and for that to be of value to someone. Thank you.





1. The Freedman’s Bureau Suite

2. "Blues"


The performers featured in the recording include:

Matthew Stewart: Trumpet & Percussion, Ron Sutton: Alto Sax, Dexter Koonce: Keyboards, Ehud Guy: Bass, Aaron Walker: Drums;  All tunes composed by Matthew Stewart


The Freedman’s Bureau Suite was recorded live by sound engineer, Eugene Lew, in the Montgomery Auditorium at the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia, PA on February 13th, 2017 and edited at Lynasha Studios.





Downloading: To download, click the download links below, when page with audio appears, let it download to your browser and then go to File/Save Page As... Be sure to save file as mp3.


Matthew Stewart Mixtape CoverTHE FREEDMEN'S BUREAU SUITE 


Released June 2020


Music composed by Matthew Stewart,


Duration: 46 minutes

File Size: 67 MB


You can also download PJP Mixtapes at:

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Check out this video with Matthew Stewart in action


Mysterious Traveler Concert Series is produced by Philadelphia Jazz Project in collaboration with The Free Library of Philadelphia.


Special Thanks: Adam Feldman and Perry Genovisi of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Leo Gadson of Producer's Guild, PJP Staff and supporters; Lynn Washington, Gail Fountaine, James Solomon, Asha Jackson, Julia Lopez, Melissa Talley Palmer and Stephanie Seiple.




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This mixtape is a production of The Philadelphia Jazz Project, which is a sponsored project of the CultureWorks | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.



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Tags : MysteriousTraveler InternalInvestigations FreeLibrary Philadelphia Wilmington Delaware MatthewStewart Trumpet DonaldByrd TedCurson StreetlightManifesto CivilWar Reconstruction Freedman'sBureau Moors EnslavedAfricans NativeAmericans USCongress CensusRecords J.A.Rogers RonSutton DexterKoonce EhudGuy AaronWalker ChristinaCulturalArtsCenter PhillyJazz


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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.