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From Gisborne to Memphis

September 25, 2012

The New Zealand Trading Company actually only traded in the United States. The band evolved out of the Maori Hi-Quins and other Maori showbands of the 1960s. The most prominent member was bass guitarist Thomas Kini, who left New Zealand in 1959 aged 16 to play with the Hi-Quins. At the time of his death aged 61 in 2004, he had become a prominent musician based in the Chicago area. (Many Maori showband musicians settled in the US after their cabaret heyday was over.) Kini worked with artists such as Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Minnie Ripperton and Herbie Hancock.

The New Zealand Trading Company released just one album, in 1970, on the Memphis label. Most of the songs are co-written by Thomas Kini, plus two by Alberto Carrion. But the song which keeps getting requested on specialist programmes in New Zealand is their cover of “Hey Jude”.

Update: now I’ve got my hands on my copy again, the sparse credits say that the album was produced by N Rosenberg, and engineered by Steve Stepanian. It doesn’t say where it was recorded but in November 1970 the album was re-mixed at Universal Recording Studios, Memphis TN. Its catalogue number was MS1001, and Memphis Records was part of the Memphis Corporation, at 261 Chelsea Building, Memphis – probably an office up a few flights of stairs.

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