By Patience Brooks (submitted by Brian Balint)

What is Deep Purple’s lead guitarist doing on a jazz label? Is he as good as Ritchie Blackmore? It’s like comparing Heineken’s Dark with Cuervo 1800 — though both are enjoyable, they’re just not the same thing.

Teaser is easily the best album by a “solo” guitarist since Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow. Tasteful graphics and attractive packaging blend with excellent production and superlative music in a most interesting debut.

Teaser’s multi-textured sound will appeal to a wide audience. Bolin’s searing guitar overlays strong rhythm tracks performed by such competent musicians as Stanley Sheldon, Jeff Porcaro, Paul Stallworth and David Foster. Tasty contributions are also provided by keyboard ace Jan Hammer and saxophonist Dave Sanborn.

Tommy Bolin’s role as coordinator is almost as crucial as his actual musical performance — there are sixteen credited contributors on Teaser. The key word here, dear friends, is almost, because Bolin turns pleasant sound into something quite extraordinary. He has to be one of America’s best homegrown (would you believe Sioux City, Iowa?) guitarists. He assembled a capable company of musicians for this record, but it’s his brilliant licks that make it truly impressive.

Side One begins with “The Grind” which presents straightforward rock ’n roll. The title track is also a rocker, but the three other tunes demonstrate different facets of Bolin’s considerable talent. “Homeward Strut” is practically disco music, though admittedly more interesting than most, and “Dreamer” features an Elton Johnish piano/vocal combination. Bolin’s somewhat limited voice shows surprising versatility; it’s especially effective on the sensuous “Savannah Woman,” a vaguely latin, Wes Montgomery-type song.

“People People,” the second side opener, is superficially similar to David Bowie’s “Young Americans” — semi-reggae, virtually identical saxophone, with the addition of subtle guitar and more solid bass. “Marching Powder” starts as heavy raunch, slides into jazz, back into electric madness…until you realize how foolish labels are with music such as this. “Wild Dogs” and “Lotus,” which finish Side Two, also combine loud and mellow sound with slightly strange lyrics. If only more of these songs had definite endings, instead of just fading…o-u-t…

Bolin has said that he enjoys better musical communication with Deep Purple than he ever did with either Zephyr or the James Gang. His next LP may well reflect this influence. However, his work with jazz artists Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon, among others, has helped him develop his unique style, and he’ll doubtless continue to acknowledge this in future recordings. Indeed, it is this. contrast that makes Teaser so intriguing, and so appropriately named.