Open Sky Unit
Open Sky Unit
I began performing concerts in 1967, mostly with my father and also with guitarist Rene Thomas and organist Lou Bennett; the best school to learn is the stage! In the late 60s I was very influenced by the free jazz scene and Steve Lacy, who was a good friend of my father, asked me to join his Post Free Big Band (with Enrico Rava on trumpet) for a 6 month tour of Italy. Back in Belgium I then had a few concerts under my own name with a trio comprised of Johnny Dyani on bass and Mongezi Feza on trumpet, and I asked my father to join us for that 'free adventure'. In 1969 we opened for Miles Davis at the Liege Festival. That evening, Wayne Shorter heard the group and asked me to come to NY to record with him.
I arrived in New York in December 1969 and then recorded Wayne's Blue Note LP "Moto Grosso Feio" in April 1970 with Chick Corea, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Ron Carter and Miroslav Vitous. New York was a big shock for me; I've never felt such strong vibrations anywhere else. I think that every jazz musician in the world must go to N.Y. at least once in their lifetime, as it is the foremost jazz town in the world.
When I arrived there I was invited to a 3 storey house on 19th St. and 7th Ave. Chick Corea lived on the 1st floor, Dave Holland on the 2nd and Dave Liebman on the 3rd. Liebman opened his place for rehearsals and jam sessions everyday - so many musicians passed by that I cannot remember them all! Very often I jammed with Bennie Maupin, Steve Grossman, Richie Beirach and Chick Corea.
Living in N.Y. was the richest experience of my life - when I returned from the U.S., Belgium seemed sad to me!! By chance, Barney Wilen (another good friend of my father's) returned from a two-year trip to Africa and asked me to join his group Moshi in Paris. It was a great 2 years experience. Coming out of free jazz, I had to play African rhythms to accompany taped field recordings that Barney made in Africa.
That was world music 20 years before anyone had heard of it! It was also in Moshi that I met pianist Michel Graillier, who was to become my husband. Open Sky Unit - named after Dave Liebman's group Open Sky - was at first a family affair. My cousin Steve Houben studied classical flute at conservatory and learned sax with my father. While I was in Paris with Moshi my father met Ron Wilson in Maastricht.
Ron is a great composer so we decided that Steve, my father and myself would form a group based on Ron's music. Steve brought his friend Janot Buchem to our house and we started rehearsing hard in our basement for a few months and the group started to develop its own sound. Open Sky Unit had a lot of success wherever we played - Belgium, Holland, Germany, Tabarka's festival in Tunisia. I like the OSU LP, especially when Ron Wilson sings - I love his voice.
The LP is not "perfect" because it's a live recording from one evening's concert, but the feeling of the group is present. That's the most import-ant thing - we were a joyful group. In 1975 Steve Houben left Belgium for Boston and Ron Wilson lost interest in singing - he wanted to concentrate on piano, so when we had a second opportunity to record for Duchesne, my father and I asked my friend pianist Michel Graillier and bassist Alby Cullaz to record another live LP, "Song For Rene". Since those years we kept the OSU name and its concept of friendship and family.
Even the last OSU CD "Never Let Me Go", recorded in 1990, had 3 of the family and 3 good friends (Barney Wilen, Eric Legnini and Bart de Nolf) on it. Personally I think that was the best thing we recorded. During the 80s I played in a women's group called Ladies First, a swinging group that was a big success in Paris. We also played the Vienna Festival with Dee Dee Bridgewater in 1987 - it's a pity no recording exists.
Ladies First split up when the guitarist Marie-Ange Martin left for the U.S. At the same time I played a lot with Chet Baker (I first toured with him, my father and Michel in Zaire in 1977) in Italy, Paris and Chicago in 1986. Chet and I were very close friends-he knew me since I was a kid in '55!! Micheline Pelzer - May 2001 © Whatmusic.com 2001. All rights reserved.
Whatmusic.com would like to thank the following: - Jean Duchesne - licensing Micheline Pelzer - liner notes & positivity Adrian Gibson (Jazz Cafe) - supplying cover Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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