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Don Baaska

The Composer and Keyboard player of "Get off the Ground (The Bottom End)"

I wrote the melody in 1963, and its original title was "My Little Girl", which was written for my baby daughter Hilda. I wrote an arrangement for four horns and rhythm that was filmed for a weekly Puerto Rican TV Show "Taller De Jazz" narrated in Spanish. The films for this show were distributed all over Latin America and it ran for a year. We would go into the studio every morning at 9 am with bleary eyes because local hotel jobs finished at 4 am on weekends.

In the 60's, many name acts came through PR performing in the hotels. They usually brought their own drummer, piano player and lead trumpet with them, and we would incorporate these guy's into the programme. We would have a brief look at the charts and a talk through, and then did the show live with one take unless someone fell out of the chair, or said "Oh Shit!" in a loud voice. The camera guys were anxious to get home. They were working free on this project. I think we made cab fare and breakfast money.

The words came later after a vivid recurring dream in which I was flying through the air with a lighter version of my body. I flew over tall buildings and hovered over crowded New York Streets. Occasionally someone would look up but apparently didn't see me, or if they did showed no sign of surprise seeing a naked body 10 feet over their heads. The dreams were in full colour and surround sound and with tactile perception. They were exhilarating and at the same time frustrating, because nobody was aware of my wonderful new trick.

The drummer on the 9-minute "Bottom End" version of "Get off the Ground" was Ken Park, who later went on tour with Donna Summers for 5 years, and the bass player was Jamie Faunt who was playing with Chick Corea at the time. Jamie had played a few concerts with us at Celebrity Center in L.A, and I had jammed a few times with Ken.

I don't recall how we got together for the Demo for "The Bottom End". I'm sure it was a "freezie" and was set up by someone who thought it would be good promotion for us. I thought that "Get off the Ground" was the best of my songs to utilize Ken and Jamie. I brought along a lead sheet for Jamie. I told Ken I wanted an implied clave on the first 8 measures, and straight ahead on the second 8. I told him to close his eyes, and open his ears, give me a drum roll and off we went. Ken was a real power drummer, and Jamie had no trouble keeping up.

We jammed for a while on the harmonic changes, but there were no structured solos because we thought we were doing a sound check. After about 8 minutes I cued Valli in. She sang the song, and improvised the ending. It was the first time we ever did the song together; there was no real arrangement. It was recorded Direct-To-Disc with one mike. I assumed that Engineer Ken Kreisel was getting a balance, and that we were ready to try a take with the vocal up front in the more conventional format.

To our utter amazement, Ken said that this was just what he wanted to demonstrate his new speakers and recording equipment, and said, "Thank you very much, that's a keeper!" Later I wrote an arrangement for bass trombone player Jim Morris's band with Valli on vocal. I recall recording this version, but the tape was lost.
In 1978 we recorded the LP "Valli Scavelli, Floating" at Sage And Sound Studio in Hollywood with Jim Mooney as engineer.

Jim had great ears, especially for jazz. Jim Morris played trombone on the shorter version of "Get off the Ground" which appears on that LP. Bobby Shew was in the studio at the time, and volunteered to lay down a couple of trumpet tracks in return for six-pack of Lowenbrau. He also played solos on "How High The Moon", and "Lush Life" which were eloquent.

More recently I recorded a piano trio version of "Get off the Ground" with a more Latin feel. Its on the CD "Neptune's Treasure" with the title "Tropical High". I was truly amazed when Seymour phoned informing us that "Get off the Ground" was an icon in London jazz clubs. I had almost relegated it to my recycle bin.

Don Baaska

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