Kit is the unsung epicenter of so much that was fringe in Hawaii. More than once he selflessly gave to me and many others transfusions from his own eclectic musical life's blood. The most gifted musician I know. Mahalo Nui Loa.Robert ÆOLUS Myers, March 27, 2019
Kit Ebersbach will readily tell you why he loves living in Hawaii, and why he wouldn't live anywhere else.
Born on the East Coast and a graduate of Yale University, Kit arrived in Hawaii during his 20s sometime in 1967, leaving behind the provincialized, Western modes of a modern American life. Every moment lived here in Hawaii is a moment saved from what could've been an entirely different existence, had he stayed in New Jersey and continued down the career path dictated by his college degree in linguistics.
Hawaii is the place, and music is his calling. He's pursued both with a passion, in earnest, ever since.
Bubbling with distinct cultures and peoples from the East, West, and Oceania that comprises a (mini) mixed plate metropolis in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There were plenty of gigs in the islands at the time, and Kit picked up enough work to keep himself busy.
Eventually, he wound up in the studio for his first full album recording session. It was with Lemuria, the now legendary, almost mythical super group produced by Kalapana's founding keyboardist, Kirk Thompson. You can see Kit on the back cover at the piano, wearing aviator sunglasses and headphones, looking over his shoulder towards percussionist Henry Gibson in what is a somewhat convincing collage of the band all together, pre-Photoshop.
Not long after, Kit also played piano on the highly prized Babadu! album sessions, of which he remembers nothing, a result of such a prolific time in Hawaii's recording industry. He's also on the Roy & Roe LP, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the band in a photograph found on the album's insert.
His next notable project — if you compare it to the storyline of Aloha Got Soul thus far, with Mike Lundy, Aura, Phase 7 and similar groups at our attention — was Tender Leaf, the private press project of two musicians who worked for TheBus that has lasted for decades with a timeless sound of sun-loving, softly psychedelic rock and AOR music.
That was all I really knew when I first met Kit. My interest in local funk, soul and R&B music had confined my perspective, because when I finally met Kit for the first time he alluded to several other projects he'd been a part of — The Squids, most notably, but also the 1990s exotica jazz group, Don Tiki.
Both groups — The Squids and Don Tiki — were just as relevant to the storyline of Aloha Got Soul as the others. Because where groups like Aura and Phase 7 were at the forefront of R&B music in Hawaii during the 1970s, it was Kit who ushered in the islands' very first new wave / punk band, The Squids. It was Kit (and his partner Lloyd Kandell) who fueled the revival of exotica music in the 1990s and early 2000s, a movement that continues on today (hat tip Numero Group for their recent Technicolor Paradise box set).
Over the last 4 years, I've spent more and more time with Kit at his recording studio in Chinatown, Pacific Music Productions, a family-run business with his son, Max Ebersbach, at the engineering helm, and his wife, Gerry Ebersbach, who keeps the business humming along in its cozy, second story location on Nuuanu Avenue. He's passed along unexpected opportunities, like a chance to record a regular in-flight program on Hawaiian Airlines ("Declarations of Independents", hosted by Leimomi Bong).
Over time, I've earned Kit's trust (a good sense of humor and a good pair of ears helps). With this friendship, new worlds have opened.
It must've been when I asked Kit if he had any extra copies of a curious cassette he co-produced — POGMANIA by Chad & Da Slammas, a children's rap about pogs (milk caps) set to reggaeton — when the archives surfaced, so to speak. Kit took me to a storage area, where boxes of cassettes had been sitting for some time.
Did we find more copies of that POGMANIA tape? Yep, and plenty more.
This was sometime in 2016, just prior to when Roundtrip Films and Filipe Zapelini began filming the Aloha Got Soul documentary. I remember this because I was excited to share a composition with Filipe called "Snail Nerve Cells", an experimental piece made from sounds synthesized (somehow) from snails, and culled from Kit's tape archives. (We'll release that one ASAP.)
There's plenty more, and I believe many of these tapes will provide valuable insight to the highly experimental, relatively unknown side of Hawaii's music scene from the 1980s on.
But before we go down that road — which will eventually bring forth a trove of entirely new recordings by Kit — I'd like to present a trio of tapes that will be much more approachable for those following the Aloha Got Soul storyline.
Us, a jazz-soul outfit from 1974, led by Kit Ebersbach and fronted by singer Ron Tinsley, that took up residencies in a handful of clubs throughout Hawaii: the Chart House in Waikiki, and Silversword Inn and Nick's Fish Market on Maui.
Inspired by the trailblazing Ox (later known as Seawind), Us recorded their live sets a few times, and the tapes have since been stored in Kit's archives. The recordings now act as a small peek into Hawaii nightlife during the 1970s and the impact Ox left on the local scene.
In fact, two of the Us band members had direct connections to Ox: trumpeter Larry Hall was an original Ox member, and reeds player Gary Wilson was the brother of Ox's leader, drummer Bob Wilson.)
While tunes like "Compared To What" and "Slippin' Into Darkness" traveled the circuit — Seattle's Burgundy Express recorded both for an LP that followed their Waikiki residency — Tinsley and guest female vocal trio, TNT, incorporated fresh tunes that might not have reached the islands otherwise: "I Can't Stand The Rain" by Ann Peebles had just hit the market before the band recorded their version.
Unearthed Sounds from 1974, then, is a snapshot of a time in Kit's career when he was "getting funky" while experimenting with fresh tunes, thanks to the help of Ron and TNT.
Ron Tinsley, vocals and congas
Larry McFall, drums
Paul Chun, bass
Gary Wilson, reeds
Larry Hall, trumpet
Jerry Eubank, reeds
with guest vocalists TNT (Pat Frierson, and two other female vocalist whose names escape Kit and crew).
Silversword Inn, Maui, sometime in July 1975 (engineer, Steve Jones)
Nick's Fish Market, Lahaina, December 1974 (engineer unknown)
Chart House, Waikiki, June 1974 (engineer unknown)
Thank you to Kit for making this possible, and to the band members we were able to reach.