Log cabins and stone buildings on the U.P.

The angle of the sun changes around Labor Day, and that’s when — with a half dozen independent-minded friends — I migrated north to Upper Michigan and ferried to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.

We stayed two nights in the not-fancy lodge there. The rooms feature wide windows onto Lake Superior.

We hiked along Tobin Harbor to Scoville Point. Whether the path was stony or packed earth, hilly or flat along the water, it was quiet! And fun to briefly meet hikers coming back from several nights on the trail.

After the island, we relocated to Keweenaw National Historical Park outside Copper Harbor. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed Keweenaw in the 1930s with a grand lodge and a couple dozen cabins.

I sigh as I wish today’s federal government would conserve land today.

Changes are ahead. In July, Keweenaw was auctioned and sold to pay a $1.5 million debt to the US Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The new owner comes from Texas. He says he loves the Upper Peninsula. I hope he can keep Keweenaw natural and affordable.

We drove to Calumet where the extraordinary, century-old  buildings were glowing in afternoon light. This beauty, built in 1900 at 330 Fifth Street and most recently a bank, appears to be for sale or recently sold. Touch the stones; they’re warm.

As I walked the two long main streets, marveling at the masonry, the opening words to a Woody Guthrie song crept in my mind: “Take a trip with me in 1913 to Calumet Michigan in the copper country …”

It’s the story of a Christmas Eve fire in the Italian Hall. Trying to escape, striking copper miners’ children were killed. I still feel the sadness. Calumet was lightly populated for my visit.



Randy Weston on JazzSet

This photo of Abdullah El Gourd (with the guembri) and Randy Weston by Junenoire Mitchell comes from the French Institute/Alliance Française, New York. I put it on the JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater web page when we featured  Randy Weston and his African Rhythms band onstage at NJPAC in Newark.

Here’s a link to a musical highlight with a long written narrative by me. There was so much to say!

At the time Weston’s great friend and fellow pianist Ray Bryant had just died, so I led with Randy’s memories of Ray, especially how they had performed jazz in 40 elementary schools in New York City in the 1960s.

Pause to imagine their charisma …

Weston’s trombonist Benny Powell had also just died. When you scroll through the JazzSet story, you see photographer Lena Adasheva‘s beautiful photo of him. Is she still shooting jazz?

Finally, Abdullah El Gourd from Morocco and Weston were honored at the World Nomads program at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York, 2011. Hence the photo. I covered this event for this JazzSet and remember El Gourd telling me that — besides playing Gnaouan music — he had long been employed as a technician for Moroccon state radio.

JazzSet aired weekly from 1992-2014. Besides the NJPAC show, we   recorded/presented Weston at the Kennedy Center in Washington, on a Bosendorfer piano with a few extra keys on the low end. Randy played those keys! Always his knees came up to key level. He was that tall. I believe that in the 1980s WBGO/NPR recorded a Weston concert for the American Jazz Radio Festival series. This concert might now live at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers in Newark.

Long live Randy Weston! In his words We are all musicians. Our voices are our instruments; our hearts are our drums. Thanks to him for his beautiful life in jazz.