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The Known Unknown - Celebrating Bill Barron & Ted Curson - Mixtapes


In October 2015, at the American Philosophical Society, PJP presented a tribute concert for two talented Philadelphia artists; saxophonist Bill Barron and trumpeter, Ted Curson, who were in the thick of things during what was called, "The New Thing" in Jazz in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They also had the distinction of working with Cecil Taylor, Charles Mingus, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Heath and Archie Shepp and continued to explore the possibilities of music until their departures from this life. Bill Barron passed in September of 1989. Ted Curson passed in November of 2012.


This phenomenal concert celebrated their genius and featured the Makanda Project, a 13 piece Boston-based big band dedicated to performing the compositions of Jazz innovator, Makanda Ken McIntyre, who, like Bill Barron, also taught at Wesleyan University. The group performed works by Bill Barron, as well as a few of Makanda's compostitions. The opening act for the evening, presenting the works of Ted Curson was an ensemble, specially organized for this occasion called Quicksand. This group was led by trumpeter Matthew Stewart with special guests Carol Harris, Mark Griffith & Sam Reed.


The Known Unknown Views 1

It was a powerful evening of music, friends, family, reminiscing and celebration. Fortunately for us all, we worked with Turtle Studios to record the proceedings. Now, we share that experience with you in this two-part mixtape series... CELEBRATING THE KNOWN UNKNOWN: Bill Barron & Ted Curson.


The Known Unknown Views 2

With the release of these mixtapes, PJP spoke with Quicksand music director and trumpeter Matthew Stewart, Makanda Project music director and pianist John Kordalewski and childhood friend and former bandmate of Ted Curson, saxophonist Sam Reed to share their thoughts about these two great musicians.


The Known Unknown Views 6

PJP: How would you describe the evening, the performance and the vibe of the Celebrating Bill Barron & Ted Curson concert of Friday October 16th, 2015, at the American Philosophical Society? Were there anythings that stood out for you that were memorable from that evening?


Sam Reed: The concert was very special for me. Ted Curson’s mother was in the audience that night. That was really was memorable. I hadn’t seen her since I was in my 20s. I believe Ted Curson's wife was there as well. It was great to participate in honoring my good friend Ted.


John Kordalewski: Seeing the care that the Quicksand group had put in to preparing the Ted Curson music, and hearing those great tunes arranged and performed: I just remember how much I enjoyed listening to the set before we played.  For us to have an opportunity to present Bill Barron's music in his hometown, in such a nice space, was great in and of itself; it was even better to be able to do it as part of such a well-conceived event. It was a beautiful evening.  I felt there was real good energy in the room; having the two bands contributed to that, as well as the feeling from the audience.0.


Matthew Stewart: The performance was beautiful. It was held at the American Philosophical Society which is a wonderful venue. The crowd was full of people that I didn't know. People I've never seen on the sets that I perform in. This was a totally different audience, which I loved. The band we had gathered for that evening were people from different musical communities. Although we had not previously played together, through our rehearsals and phone conversations, we developed a great rapport and were ready to go to work for the music.


The Known Unknown Views 5

PJP: What is your experience and connection to either of these two musicians?


John Kordalewski: I have come to know and be inspired/intrigued by Bill Barron's music through our bass trombonist Bill Lowe, who worked very closely with him.  


Sam Reed: I grew up with Ted Curson. Ted, Tootie Heath and I met in first grade at George Lyle Smith Elementary School at 19th and Wharton Streets in South Philly. We started our musical education together at the VFW Lincoln Post down the street from Tootie Heath’s house. We had a band together, The Bebop Trio. The three of us were tight friends ever since those days as kids.


Bill Barron was from North Philly, I didn’t know him personally, but I did see him often rehearsing with Jimmy Heath’s big band. But I do know his little brother, Kenny Barron very well. We used to play different gigs together.


The Known Unknown Views 10

PJP: Why are these two artists important?


Matthew Stewart: Ted Curson was a consummate trumpet legend. Artists like he and Bill Barron are important because it shows and proves that individuality is sustainable. Conventional things in music are repeatable and easily visible. But the artist that chooses to give of themselves through a uniquely pure voice and at the same time, maintain a very clear connection to the greater tradition of the idiom and instrument are rare and for that reason paramount. Super study, incredible discipline, a fearless heart, and bottomless love. Bill Barron and Ted Curson exemplify this idea. It was a great night and I am blessed to have been chosen to be of service in that way.


The Known Unknown Views 7

John Kordalewski: Bill Barron's music represents a stretching of the boundaries of jazz similar to Makanda Ken McIntyre's - which is why it fits so well for the Makanda Project to add it to our repertoire.  Each gentleman found his own way to stretch those boundaries, so in the compositions one hears a personal voice and feels a personal ingenuity.  The music swings and has the important elements of jazz from earlier eras, but it has different sounds and different surprises.  One is entering a unique and glorious musical universe when engaging with each man's work.


Sam Reed: They were just great musicians and great composers. When Ted moved to New York City, he and Bill Barron became great friends. Bill was always composing music even in those days rehearsing with Jimmy Heath’s big band. He was hanging out with Jimmy, Hasaan, John Coltrane and Benny Golson. Ted became a great composer when he moved to New York. I was surprised and proud of him because he really didn’t write much when we were younger, but he became a great one.


The Known Unknown Views 3





1. #0602 [written by Makanda Kenneth McIntyre]

2. *Flatted Fifth [written by Ted Curson]

3. #Playtime [written by Makanda Kenneth McIntyre]

4. *Nosruc [written by Ted Curson]

5. #Celestial Bodies [written by Bill Barron]



1. *Cinque Quarte [written by Ted Curson]

2. #Hold Back Tomorrow# [w-Ku-umba Frank Lacy-vocals; written by Bill Barron]

3. *Pop Wine [written by Ted Curson]

4. #Swedish American Venture [written by Bill Barron]

5. *Tears For Dolphy [w-Carol Harris & James Solomon-vocals; written by Ted Curson]


#Performed by Makanda Project

Kurtis Rivers & Joe Ford - alto sax, Sean Berry & Jason Robinson - tenor sax, Charlie Kohlhase - baritone sax, Jerry Sabatini & Eddie Allen - trumpet, Ku-umba Frank Lacy & Alfred Patterson - trombone, Bill Lowe - bass trombone & conductor, John Kordalewski - piano, Wes Brown - bass, Yoron Israel - drums, Ku-umba Frank Lacy - vocals.


*Performed by Quicksand
Matthew Stewart & Heru Shabaka-Ra - trumpet, Dan Blacksberg - trombone, Terry Lawson & Sam Reed - tenor sax, Tim Brey - piano, Sunny Sunkett - bass, Lamar Prince & Mark Griffith - drums, Carol Harris - vocals, James Solomon - poetry


Recorded on Friday October 16th, 2015 at the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, by Turtle Studios.


Executive Producer: Homer Jackson






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.





Released July 2020


Music performed by Makanda Project and Quicksand


Duration: 41 minutes

File Size: 60 MB



You can also download PJP Mixtapes at:

audiomack mixcloud






Released July 2020


Music performed by Makanda Project and Quicksand


Duration: 40 minutes

File Size: 57 MB



You can also download PJP Mixtapes at:

audiomack mixcloud



The Known Unknown Views 4



To all of the participating musicians who dilignetly worked on this event and their performance, to John Kordalewski and Bill Lowe of the Makanda Project for unknowingly inspiring this project and supporting the vision, to Matthew Stewart for bravely leading the Quicksand unit, to Sam Reed for his sagely advice and support, to the families and friends of Bill Barron and Ted Curson (Your presence made it all worth while.) to the folks behind the scenes, such as the sound and recording engineers of Turtle Studios, who recorded the music on these mixtapes, as well as to photographer, Alexis Simmons, who photographed each ensemble and to our partner PhillyCAM who video recorded the evening as well. (Find that video footage on our Youtube Channel) In addition, we'd like to thank the PJP staff, Melissa Talley Palmer, Julia Lopez, Gail Fountaine and Karen Smith, who make sure that our events always happen on time and safely.


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This concert is a Pretzel Logic Series Event: A Philadelphia Jazz Project series in collaboration with local venues investigating what it means to be a Philadelphian from historical figures and fictional characters, to just plain ole folk. From magical moments to frightful urban legends, the Pretzel Logic series will unravel and explore the multi-faceted curves and intriguing twists and turns of the Philly state of mind.




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


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Tags : KnownUnknown BillBarron TedCurson Celebration MakandaProject Quicksand MakandaKenMcIntyre SamReed MatthewStewart JohnKordalewski BillLowe JerrySabatini JoeFord Ku-umbaFrankLacy WesBrown HeruShabaka-Ra DanBlacksberg TerryLawson TimBrey SunnySunkett LamarPrince MarkGriffith CarolHarris JamesSolomon KennyBarron TootieHeath JimmyHeath LegendaryHasaan JohnColtrane BennyGolson AmericanPhilosophicalSociety 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.