The HE3 Project
From the Family Groove Records press release:
Few have had the opportunity to hear the brilliant music of virtuoso pianist, arranger, and songwriter, Herman Eberitzsch Jr. III. Known to his peers as “funky knuckles,” Eberitzsch crafted an inimitable brand of psychedelic soul and funky jazz during San Francisco’s much-fabled artistic and political awakening in the 60s and 70s. Yet, his boldly experimental music missed the ears of the right A&R man and never saw commercial release.
The studio tapes found their way to Eberitzsch’s basement where they remained for 35 years until a chance encounter with Family Groove Records. Over one decade’s worth of Eberitzsch’s original recordings will be mastered and released, resulting in a four-part compilation entitled the HE3 Project.
Still reeling from the idealism of the 1960s civil rights movement, social protests, and in the midst of three major political assassinations and a devastating war abroad in Vietnam, San Francisco would forge an inspired social and artistic renaissance. “The music had a totally inventive feeling,” says Eberitzsch. “It was totally fresh and completely psychedelic.” And Eberitzsch was part of that movement. His work embodied the impassioned zeitgeist, both a fearless exploration of the cosmos and a raw form of self-expression immersed in the grass roots.
The first chapter of the HE3 Project features Eberitzsch’s trailblazing efforts from three distinct recording sessions spanning 1971 to ’74. He brought a loose-knit quartet together in ’71 to record a decidedly expressionistic approach to jazz and funk that they had cultivated in the city’s avant-garde clubs and cafes. In ’73, Eberitzsch joined members of Coke Escovedo’s Latin group, Azteca, at Wally Heider and CBS studios to arrange and write demos for Coke’s seminal, self-titled debut. And in ’74, he brought in a full band, Motion, to record at Wally Heider – with songstress Linda Tillery (The Loading Zone) an unknown soul singer named Johnny Lovett on lead vocals and a Tower-Of-Power strength horn section.
“The music was very innocent,” Eberitzsch says. We worked from a standpoint not so much of knowledge but of an ignorance of where we were going.” By forsaking formula, Eberitzsch was able to create a unique outsider sound, reminiscent of private press albums of that era. He preferred an explorative aesthetic to convention and favored improvisation while still keeping the music in the pocket. Ebullient songs like “Funk Punk” and “Rapture of the Deep” manage to retain a solid foundation while traveling to uncharted fringes of sonic territory. “We invented as we went along,” Eberitzsch explains. “We shook the bag of formulas and saw what came out.”
Eberitzsch brought this experimental ethos to the studio where he played around with recording techniques. With a child’s amusement, he used an old fashioned Fender Echoplex in “Rapture” and applied a screwdriver to his Hammond keyboard in “Massage” to create wobbling effects. He then manipulated the tape loop, searching loosely for weird sounds that would produce warped textures. The strange, idiosyncratic sounds created in the process helped to shape the psychedelic quality of the music. Yet it never smothers itself in abstraction. “It’s still earthy because it was manipulated not by machines,” he explains while laughing, “but by the hands of the monkey man!”
Inspired to write, Eberitzsch also cultivated a poignant lyrical ability. His empowering messages evoke a heartfelt idealism that does not shy away from understanding life’s unending struggles. It is just this sort of tension between hope and despair that frame Eberitzsch’s meditations on life as more than just a two-sided coin.
The HE3 Project, emerging nearly four decades after its inception, is as strikingly moving and fresh as ever.