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Interview | Jeremy Steig
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Flautist Jeremy Steig interviewed by Scott McIntosh in Feb 2000.
Click here to hear a music clip of a Bolin/Steig... jam.

This is an abbreviated version of the interview – mainly sticking to his experiencs with Tommy.
For full interview click here

 

"The way I got involved in jazz-rock was through a flute player named Jeremy Steig. He played on the second Zephyr album. He showed me various jazz relationships and put them into a rock perspective, and then through him I met a lot of New York people like Cobham and [keyboardist] Jan Hammer". (Tommy Bolin)

 

First of all, how and where did you meet?

I met Tommy at Electic Lady studios. We were both making records there. I was making a record called "Energy" with Jan Hammer, and, excuse me, I can't remember the name of Tommy's band. I guess he was the only one I was interested in playing with. He was like a shining star next to the rest of his band. Tommy wanted to play jazz. The fact is, he was already a great improviser. He just needed to play with good jazz musicians who could respond to him.

Secondly, THANK YOU for turning Tommy on to Jazz-Rock! What sort of "jazz relationships" is Tommy referring to, and how did you put them into a "rock perspective"? (Go ahead and get technical, if you want!)

I introduced Tommy to the guys I was playing with: Eddie Gomez, Jan Hammer, Don Alias, Larry Young. Whatever I showed Tommy musically, was by really listening to the other person. Improvised music moves much too fast to figure out in words what you're doing.

Thirdly, why aren't you mentioned in the liner notes of the second Zephyr Album ("Going Back To Colorado")!? And wasn't John Faris credited with playing flute?

I never played on the second Zephyr Album. It probably WAS John Faris playing flute. Anyway, it wasn't me.

When with Zephyr, Tommy obviously lived in Boulder, Colorado. Where did you live at the time, and how was it that you would get together with Tommy and Zephyr?

I went out to Colorado for a month, and for a month Tommy and I had a band and played all over Colorado. The drummer that played with us WAS from Zephyr. After that, I was playing with Tommy, not with Zephyr.(It was OUR group.)

Your album titled ‘Energy’ must have had a powerful impact on Tommy. He named his fusion band Energy! Is there a story to that name of Tommy's band?

Yes. He stole the name from me, but it suited him.

You are credited with introducing Tommy to Billy Cobham, and you three, along with Jan Hammer, did a lot of good work together. What is one of your fondest memories of those collaborations?

The collaboration with Billy Cobham lasted 2 hours, at Electric Lady Studio. I stayed up all night before the recording, and could hardly play a note. But that recording is the only thing available of me and Tommy, so nobody will ever know how good we played together.

What was it like for you "Jazz Cats", who were much more formally educated (musically), working with Tommy -- who couldn't read music? How would songs develop?

Yes, us "jazz cats" can read music. But anybody who can REALLY play, plays with their EAR, and not with their brain. When you play with your brain instead of your ear and your feelings, you get Wynton Marsalis.

What's the FUNNIEST moment you remember with Tommy?

Just laughing about silly stuff like the cracks moving in the wall.

True fans have some bootlegs of gigs (well, I only know about one with just you and Tommy!), but about how many gigs did you all play together, and at what venues?

We played a bunch of concerts in Colorado, a club called Tolagis, a couple of weeks at the Cafe`a Go Go on Bleecker Street (In NY). The last gig we did together was a week at Slugs, in the East Village. It was a very dangerous neighborhood, and several of our friends got mugged coming over to hear us.

In a very recent release of yours, Billy Cobham and Jan Hammer join you, and you do a song called "Downstretch" (on "Something Else" album). I recognized the title and the tune from the Tommy Bolin Archives releases. What's the story behind that song, and were you all thinking of Tommy when you re-recorded it?

I recorded Downstretch with Jan Hammer and Don Alias BEFORE I met Tommy, and I never re-recorded it. Jan Hammer wrote the tune.

Some people think that, were he still with us, Tommy would have developed more along Jazz Fusion directions, rather than Heavy Metal. You may know better than anyone what his ambitions were when it comes to Jazz Fusion...do you agree?

I think Tommy's aspirations would have been to be a pop star, and to be on MTV. That's where he was headed when he died. He would have done more for music in that role than just to be another jazz musician. Jimi Hendrix raised everyone's consciousness by introducing great improvising to a huge audience. Tommy was the only other person I knew who would have done that. He was an incredible player.

 

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Any final thoughts you'd like to share?

Tommy played very loud. He needed to jack up his amp to get the effects that he wanted. What makes me the saddest when I think about Tommy, is that I never could play as loud as he did. Now, there are sound systems good enough to accommodate a flute player like me with a Tommy Bolin. Unfortunately, we now have the technology but we're missing a lot of vital voices.

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