Rediscovering the music of Herman Eberitzsch Jr. III
That's where record collector Daniel Borine mistakenly found the two-inch apex tapes, 35 years later, while doing photo research for a reissue project on lost Bay Area modern soul. What those tapes hid — a dusty time capsule of relentless insight and vigor — amazed Borine. In a move away from the prideful hoarding that typically characterizes collectors, Borine wanted to share the tapes with a larger audience and finally do justice to Eberitzsch's music. He pursued the new and quickly growing business of recorded music archaeology and preservation, an endeavor that mirrors what so many archivists have done already for literature, film, and visual art. Borine had the tapes mastered and organized the tracks into coherent volumes. He plans to put out four full-length records of Eberitzsch's brilliant efforts, titled the HE3 Project, over the coming years on his own upstart Family Groove Records.
The first chapter of the compilation is set for release on March 30. It focuses on Eberitzsch's trailblazing efforts from three distinct recording sessions between 1971 and 1974. These recordings capture Eberitzsch's far-reaching artistry — a grounded and soulful angle on space-jazz psychedelia, informed as much by Weather Report as by Robert Johnson. This is the story of the man behind the HE3 Project.
ORIGINS OF A WOULD-BE TRAILBLAZER
Herman Eberitzsch Jr. III was born in San Francisco's colorful Portola neighborhood in 1947. He grew up in a German household, where he learned to play the classical composers — Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms — at a young age. But somewhere along the way Eberitzsch caught the funk and couldn't let go. "In my room I listened to James Brown," he recalls. "When I grooved and played the boogie, I had a powerful left foot that shook the ground. My left foot took down the house, so I eventually had to move out."
Eberitzsch conjured doo-wop on the corner with the young funky drummer Greg Errico, who lived down the street. He was enraptured by the blues in Oakland, danced to jazzy R&B grooves in San Francisco, and witnessed the emergence of a new psychedelic sound at the Fillmore and in the streets. Immersed in the Bay Area's magnetic music community, he naturally gravitated to the keys again. "I figured out how to play funky style clavinet and piano," Eberitzsch says. "They called me Funky Knuckles for short."
At 21, the freshly-dubbed Funky Knuckles joined a band with Boots Hughston called Sword and the Stone, and was booked by Bill Graham to perform at the Fillmore. The outfit transitioned into a quartet, Shane, with Santana's David Brown on bass. They hustled around the city making $10 an hour and all the beer they could drink. The city bubbled over with an unparalleled creative force. The time was electric.
That same year — 1968 — Eberitzsch attended UC Berkeley to study psychiatry. But he quit after one semester to pursue music as a career, preferring the organic therapeutic powers of rhythm and melody to the structured treatment of question and answer. "Music is a much more pure form of psychiatry. It has two potentials: it either incites you to create, or it soothes the savage beast," he says. "I became a knowledgeable person of people through music." And cyclically, Eberitzsch's improvisational music erupted from kinetic relationships with people.