John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams: Trio Of Doom – John McLaughlin, guitars; Jaco Pastorius, bass; Tony Williams, drums – Columbia/Legacy

by | Aug 16, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams: Trio Of Doom – John McLaughlin, guitars; Jaco Pastorius, bass; Tony Williams, drums – Columbia/Legacy CD – 82796 96450 2, 40 mins. ****:

The Trio Of Doom (dubbed as such by Jaco Pastorius) was a once-in-a-lifetime supergroup comprised of guitarist John McLaughlin, bassist Jaco Pastorius and drummer Tony Williams. The group only performed live once, at the 1979 Havana Jam in Cuba, and for a variety of personal and artistic reasons, never performed live again. The only document of their existence was two volumes of “Havana Jam” released by Columbia Records later that year; however, the original Trio Of Doom event tapes were thought by all parties involved to be unusable, so the trio reconvened five days later in New York to record three tracks for the album release. The studio tracks were interspersed with crowd noise from the actual event, and nobody was the wiser. The actual live tracks and the unembellished studio tracks languished unheard in Columbia’s vaults for almost thirty years. Recently, John McLaughlin decided to revisit the original tapes, and was surprised at how well the tracks actually had held up over that time period, and just how powerful the group really was. This Red Book CD release marks the first time these tracks have ever been heard by the general public.

My first impression – especially of the live tracks – was, Wow! The music is really powerful, and the individual performances are superb, especially the incredible drum work of the late Tony Williams. The music, which is very jazz-inflected, stems from the tail end of the fusion movement. While the music retains the jam-with-extended soloing feel of fusion, it also has a very heavy rock presence – once again, mostly fueled by the intense drumming of Tony Williams. It’s just incredible that the 1979 Havana Jam event basically flew under the radar (perhaps only for me?), and that there wasn’t much of a clamor from the public to hear more from this great ensemble. John McLaughlin, in the liner notes, mentions that something was definitely going on with Jaco Pastorius during the Havana concert, possibly completely unrelated to the music, that negatively affected his performances there, and he implies that perhaps that’s why he chose not to pursue the continuation of the group.

If there’s a caveat at all to this disc, and the only thing that keeps this disc from getting five stars, it’s the really short forty-minute playing time. But what’s there is just so incredible, I can’t really complain. And there obviously is no existing filler material. If you’re a fan of jazz fusion, or any of the principals involved, it’s a no-brainer. Very highly recommended.

TrackList: Drum Improvisation (Live); Dark Prince (Live); Continuum (Live); Para Oriente (Live); Are You The One, Are You The One? (Live); Dark Prince; Continuum; Para Oriente; two alternate takes.

– Tom Gibbs

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