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