Hundred Highways Tour #48, 49: M-13, M-84 to Bemo’s Bar

Sitting with the Northwoods Improvisors (Mike Johnston on bass)

Sitting in with the Northwoods Improvisers (Mike Johnston on bass)

No tour would be complete without a visit to my birthplace of Bay City, Michigan, and a reading at Bemo’s, my favorite Bay City bar (now that the Old Bar is long gone).

The show was fantastic thanks in large part to the amazing crowd of family and friends who came out for it. Also, having my brother/comrade Todd Berner open for me was perfect. He’s a hell of a songwriter and sounded great. Later, his set with Alyssa Diaz held the room in awe.

The absolute highlight of the evening (or maybe the entire tour so far) was sitting in during Northwoods Improvisors’ set. This trio of mind and soul-bending artists: Mike Gilmore (vibraphones, marimba, cheng, guitar, saz, percussion), Mike Johnston (bass, wood flutes, percussion) and Nick Ashton (drums, percussion), inspire me like no other living musicians do. It was an honor to be able to introduce their music to some new people, and then to share a new poem while they played an Alice Coltrane piece — wow!
The poem is from a new project I hope to record called From Coltrane to Coal Train: An Eco-Jazz Suite. Here’s the piece we debuted:


“All a musician can do
is to get closer to the sources of nature,
and so feel that he is in communion
with the natural laws.”
– John Coltrane
spoke these words, 1962
the same year a German coal mine explodes
killing 299 and John Glenn orbits the earth
dancing through “fireflies” of ice
the Centralia coal mine fire begins to burn
decimating two towns & likely to continue
burning for 250 more years and Bob Dylan
first sings “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”
& 50 years later
I sit outside this bar
in a brief respite between coal trains
listening to the sparrows
discuss a coming storm
the willow across the road
dances out the same message
the aspens of the courtyard
sigh their thirst,
soon to be slated

I’d like to go in for another beer
But the earth’s music is too compelling

All any of us can do
(as the first rain drops fall)
is to get closer to the sources of nature
(as the birds fall silent)
& so feel we are in communion
w/ the natural laws
(even though what I first take for thunder
is instead the next train
rounding the bend)

[More reports from the Hundred Highways Tour here]

About marcbeaudin

Poems, plays, books, roads, trails.
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1 Response to Hundred Highways Tour #48, 49: M-13, M-84 to Bemo’s Bar

  1. Pingback: The Hundred Highways Tour | Marc Beaudin

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