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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

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  • Ian Wiseman wrote on August 24, 2007 report

    Tommy Bolin in the 1970's pioneered the use of Rock/Blues guitar aestetic in two very influential albums in the jazz world by two legendary drummers,Billy Cobham's Spectrum and Alphonse Mouzon's Mind Transplant. Both drummers had already fruitful careers in Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report,respectively.

    In the early 70's jazz was undergoing a transformation, With the release of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Jazz Musicians started integrating other ideas and improvisational methods into their music,Many of these ideas came to be realized in the Fusion of all the present influences which included Rock, Blues, Funk, Latin, etc.
    Many groups and solo projects stemmed from Miles Davis' Bands and from there fusion was born.

    Tommy Bolin up 'til 1971 had basically played Rock and Blues In the Bands, American Standard, Patch Of Blue, and most famously Zeyphr.
    Zeyphr was based out of Denver, Colorado, but the group didn't last very long. In 1972 Tommy met Legendary Flautist Jeremy Steig, who was playing in Denver and from there Tommy formed another band, named after Jeremy's album Energy. Energy as defined by lead singer Jeff Cook was heavymetaljazzfusion which was appropriate because Energy was one of the heavier bands but still had an underlying jazz theme for many of their songs but also played hard rock and blues, They backed many Artists who came into the fold of Colorado including Albert King, For the most part Energy played what they wanted to play in no regard for the audience of club owner which probably played a large role in why they never got a record deal.

    Regardless, In 1973 The James Gang was searching for a lead guitar player Domenic Troiano, Joe Walsh's first replacement had exited to The Guess Who,so Walsh who had already been pursuing a solo career and a spot with The Eagles recommended Bolin to the spot."Tommy", Joe said,"Played Circles around Me"
    Tommy recorded two AOR Albums with The James Gang.

    In Between James Gang Bang And James Gang Miami, Tommy recieved a call from Billy Cobham who was hot off recording with John Mclaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, and was ready to pursue a solo album of his own. Cobham had jammed with Steig, Bolin, and Eddie Gomez in 1971 but nothing was released. Spectrum Was Realeased in 1973 and became a landmark fusion album due to fast pace and integrated rock/jazz enviornment provided by Cobham and Bolin. Equally as impressive as the Album was the fact that Tommy Couldn't Read Music and he recorded his dubs for the album in one or two takes.

    Alphonse Mouzon's Album Mind transplant is in the same vein as Spectrum recorded only a couple monthes later provides more stellar Tommy Bolin guitar playing, Spectrum overshadowed the popularity of this album but it is nontheless classic and inspirired

    After 1974 Tommy Left The James Gang and Replaced Ritchie Blackmore In Deep Purple Releasing one album after pursing his own solo career which ended too soon as he died of a drug overdose in 1976 after releasing 1975's Teaser and 1976's Private Eyes on Columbia.

    It seems to me that Tommy Bolin is more or less completly forgotten in the rock world not to mention the jazz world. I think Tommy left an amazing legacy and rivals any guitar player today as far as brilliance and soul. Following his Death Tommy's Brother Johnny Bolin holds a festival in Tommy's Hometown of Sioux City, IA every year and released Archieved albums of Lost Bolin Concerts and Rare studio outtakes. www.tbolin.com