Don Baaska: press
That Baaska and Scavelli is a jazz-dance classic is down to an almost unbelievable chain of events. The original version of “Get Off The Ground” was recorded in Los Angeles around 1976. Using direct to disc technology M&K Sound wanted to use the track to demonstrate their state of the art sound recording equipment. “We jammed for 8 minutes to get familiar with the changes and then Valli sang the melody. “That's a take” yelled the engineer to our amazement, ” recalls Baaska. Somehow a test pressing of the recording found its way to London, where it was purchased in a second hand store for 10 pence. Marked only as “”The Bottom End” a product of M and K Sound” Peterson ended up with that copy (after it passed through the hands of London DJs Chris Bangs and Paul Murphy) and it became the mysterious anthem of the old school jazz scene at the famous Electric Ballroom Jazz Room in Camden Town. The tune and lyrics were perfect for the jazz-dance scene where the best dancers would square-up and literally dance each other off the floor in a display of athletic prowess and rhythmic agility. DJ's, record dealers, and Jazz enthusiasts searched for the identity of the musicians on the track until finally, 23 years later, collector Seymour Nurse solved the mystery when he found Baaska and Scavelli on the internet. “When I found Don (Baaska) and Valli (Scavelli), I discovered the other shorter version (included on this compilation) which was quite phenomenal!” says Nurse. “To find another version of “The Bottom End”, or “Get Off The Ground” its official name, after there had been so much mystery just blew people away.”
The shortened version was recorded in 1978. Nurse plans to release both versions along with remixes on the Freestyle label. Living and performing in Puerto Rico, Baaska was amazed that Nurse had been looking for him for more than 20 years and that he found him at all since no names appear on the test pressing!
Giles Peterson - Jazz News (Nov 13, 2005)
Puerto Rico Jazz of Don Baaska
Don Baaska has brought traditional jazz from the mainland US to Puerto Rico. Don, a native out the US arrived in Puerto Rico in 1953 and except for a few slight detours in his career has remained there.
Don Baaska and wife Valli Scavelli are a pianist / vocal husband wife team, known throughout Puerto Rico. Don came to Puerto Rico from Key West Florida in 1953. Other than a couple of short detours in his career, he has remained in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has given him the laid back island lifestyle he likes as well as providing him the opportunity to do his favorite thing – Play Jazz.
Jazz has influenced many of the Caribbean music styles. From Reggae to Salsa to Merengue, you will find Jazz roots. Don Baaska has brought those Jazz roots to Puerto Rico playing for over 50 years in the finest Jazz clubs in Puerto Rico. Don Baaskas most popular albums are:
From Puerto Rico with Love
Mi Viejo San Juan
Perfume de Gardenia
Sounds of the Rainforest
Also worth mentioning is Sounds of the Rainforest. For those who are looking for background music of a Tropical Rainforest, Sounds of the Rainforest will put you there. These are true sounds in Yunque, the tropical rain forest in Puerto Rico. The light rain, the Coqui (a singing tree frog native to Puerto Rico), and much more to bring you to the heart of the tropics.
Jazz Listings (New York Times)
Jazz greats Chick Corea, David Benoit and Chris Botti will headline the Cultural Trust of the Palm Beaches' inaugural season beginning in October.
All About Jazz, a magazine for Jazz fans by Jazz fans. The premier Jazz site on the Web. Informative and timely yet entertaining and fun, it offers all fans the opportunity to express their opinion on a variety of jazz and jazz-related subjects.
- Jazz News (Oct 26, 2006)
The compilation Gilles Peterson Digs America: Brownswood U.S.A. brings together some of the songs that Peterson plays in the "Brownswood Basement" portion of his show: American jazz and R&B tracks that have never appeared on CD before now. It's not that Peterson has discovered great songs that should've been monster hits. It's more that a song like Darondo's sensual soul ballad "Didn't I"—with its semi-awkward mix of slowed-down funk guitar, see-saw organ, intermittent flute and strings, and cooing vocals—helps explain what was great about early '70s soul in the first place. Peterson recognizes Darondo's earnest evocation of the mood of urban radio, in an era where the reclamation of Afro roots music warred with the old-fashioned desire to craft a killer make-out cut.
Other impossibly fine Digs America tracks include Lonnie Hewlett's voodoo-gumbo jazz chant "Ya Ya Cha Cha," Jon Lucien's sweeping, string-saturated "Search For The Inner Self," Bobby Cole's percussive, joyful piano piece "A Perfect Day," Baaska & Scavelli's brief, skewed avant-showtune "Get Off The Ground," and Caroline Peyton's warm, free-roaming, Joni Mitchell-styled ballad "Just As We." Peterson's mix leans heavy on syncopation, pounding piano, smooth voices and fearless orchestration. It's the collective sound of American music rediscovering itself in the wake of the rock revolution, and finding something passionate and real in every wing of pop, from the roadhouse to the concert hall to the airport lounge.
The Bottom End- “The Holy Grail.”
My Quest for “The Holy Grail” began at the tender age of 14 after hearing about ‘The Tune’ in my school playground. Some of my friends had gone to the “Electric Ballroom” the previous Friday night, and were very excited as they spoke about a jazz track featuring a female vocalist singing the lyrics “GET OFF THE GROUND!” at the end.
In 1981 DJ Chris Bangs found an obscure looking record in a second hand vinyl shop in Notting Hill Gate, London, and bought it for 10 pence. A logo with the words “THE BOTTOM END” was written upon it, as well as the company name M and K Sound Inc, and a Californian address. There was no additional information for this was (as we were later to learn), a Hi-fi Demonstration Record.
Shortly after its discovery, Chris Bangs sold “The Bottom End” to DJ Paul Murphy, who played it at the Electric Ballroom’s legendary “JazziFunk” Club from 1982. When he left the Ballroom in 1984 Paul sold the record to his successor Gilles Peterson, who continued its legacy there. It was at this club that “The Bottom End” would become the most significant track in English jazz- dance history. The Jazz Room was unlike any other, for it was an “Arena” where many perished upon its ‘Battlefield’. The dancing was extraordinary, with a strong humiliation factor that was complimented by the ‘hardest’ and most obscure Latin / Jazz / Fusion sounds.
Due to its length and character, “The Bottom End” was the ultimate battle tune, but what made it so special were the vocals at its climax. During a ‘duel’, whoever had the upper hand at the end of this track would humiliate their opponent by pointing to the ‘exit’ sign, as the vocalist sang the words “Get off the ground!” For around 20 years only 1 copy was ever found. Due to the lack of information and the fact that it was a Hi-fi demonstration record, this made it extremely difficult to find out the identity of the musicians. It was believed that Janet Lawson was the vocalist, and there were many other contenders too.
Where there is a search for a “Holy Grail”, you will always find those who attempt to throw people off the treasure’s trail. To gain credibility one record dealer invented a group that did not exist, and claimed that he had sold the original album, revealing ‘his’ band as the mystery musicians on the track. In another episode, invaluable information revealing the identity of the vocalist was withheld that would have led to the treasure itself. A rather dubious ‘Bootleg’ was released under the group name “Brother Davies Miles,” acknowledging Janet Lawson as the composer. The band “Working Week” cut a version, but strangely enough the composition was credited to one of their musicians.
As dramatic as these accounts may be, they all contributed to the creation of an incredible story, but nonetheless we were no closer to finding the true identity of these mystery artists. Only Heaven knows what a gruelling, painstaking quest this was. Words cannot express the phenomenal amount of hours spent in Record Shops, and the meticulous study of countless musicians. After 23 years of searching, I finally found “The Holy Grail” in the names of Don Baaska and Elvira “Valli” Scavelli, solving the mystery of “The Bottom End.” Remarkably another version from Valli’s debut album was unearthed during my discovery of them.
What made this recording so remarkable is the fact that these musicians had never played together as a group before. They were asked by Ken Kreisel to come into his M and K Sound studio in Beverly Hills circa 1976, to record a demonstration track for his state of the art Hi Fi equipment. Don was on the keyboards, Jaime Faunt (who was working with Chick Corea at the time) played the bass, Ken Park was on drums, and Valli sang the vocals. Ken and Jaime had never played the tune before; as this take was literally the first time the group had played the composition.
They were basically having a “jam session” to get used to the changes, and then after 8 minutes Valli came in and sang the melody, which she improvised. Don said that he was amazed when Ken Kreisel said at the end of the jam, “That’s a take!” They had never heard the recording of “The Bottom End” until I played it to Don down the phone at his home in Puerto Rico.
The real title of the song is “Get off the Ground” which is an original composition by Don Baaska and Elvira “Valli” Scavelli. Incidentally, “The Bottom End” was the name of a ‘Sub Woofer’ speaker that M and K Sound had designed in the mid 70’s. For me the real treasure was discovering and befriending two amazing people that have inspired me in such a special way, and who gave many kids so much joy (and pain) on the dance floor. Don and Valli, thank you so much, for your gift to us is truly beyond words.
Thanks to: Don Baaska and Elvira “ Valli” Scavelli (what more can I say?), Ken Kreisel at M and K Sound (you are a genius), Ken Park, Jaime Faunt, Gary Nurse and Marshall Smith for “THE” battle to “The Bottom End”, Milton Mcalpine, Michael Knott, all the original “JazziFunk” Electric Ballroom Dancers, Andrea Nurse Lemard, Tyrelle Sian Lemard, Robert Moore, Chris Bangs, Paul Murphy, Gilles Peterson, Andrew Dyer, Mark Higgins, Colin Parnell and Boo, Janet Lawson, Monika Scheel for all your help, Jim Morris, Adrian Gibson, Michael “Rocky” Larocque, Phil Levene, Sean P, Garth Thomas, Mark “Good Vibes” Taylor, Nick Hosier, Snowboy, Perry Louis, Jeanette “Mum” Nurse for singing it “‘out of tune” when cooking, Thiyana Nurse, and Tanya “Nia” Saw for graciously putting up with my obsession.
Seymour Nurse - Liner notes for new release (Nov 14, 2005)