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John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams - Trio of Doom Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 August 2007
format:    16-bit CD
performance:    7
sound:    6
released:    2007
label:    Columbia/Legacy
reviewer:    Scott Yanow

ImageBack in 1979, a super group, a true jazz power trio, was gathered together for a special if brief set in Havana that was part of a legendary all-star jazz concert. The group also recorded a few numbers five days later in the studios, and then dispersed. A total of only 40 minutes of music was documented.

The Trio of Doom (an irreverent name given to the group by Jaco Pastorius) consisted of three giants of American music. John McLaughlin, when he rose to prominence in the late 1960s, was the first completely original new voice on the jazz guitar since Charlie Christian nearly three decades before. His ability to play with the sound and power of rock while constructing sophisticated jazz improvisations made him a very influential force. McLaughlin played with drummer Tony Williams and organist Larry Young in Williams’ Lifetime during 1969-70, appeared on three Miles Davis albums, and led two versions of the Mahavishnu Orchestra during 1971-75. He surprised the music world by switching to acoustic guitar and Indian music with his group Shakti in 1976, but he was back to playing rockish electric guitar at the time of Trio of Doom.

Jaco Pastorius revolutionized the electric bass during his years with Weather Report (1976-81), playing with a distinctive sound and remarkable technique while creating consistently imaginative ideas. Tony Williams, having gained fame as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet during 1964-69, helped pioneer fusion with his group Lifetime. In 1979 he was freelancing and studying composing and arranging. By the mid-1980s, he would be leading his own highly-rated acoustic quintet.
While McLaughlin and Williams were quite familiar with each other’s playing, neither had played that much before with Pastorius. It seems strange that this group only survived for a week, but Pastorius was busy with Weather Report and McLaughlin and Williams had their own projects.

Only three of the 11 selections here were previously released. None of the five selections from the concert had been out before. After a “Drum Improvisation” by Williams, McLaughlin is showcased on the intense but catchy “Dark Prince” (which at six-and-a-half minutes is the longest performance on this CD), while Pastorius plays a lyrical solo on “Continuum.” Williams’ episodic “Para Oriente” is the strongest composition, and even has some walking bass by Pastorius behind McLaughlin’s intense guitar. A jam on “Are You the One, Are You the One?” closed the 25-minute set. The brevity of the group’s time onstage was due to the many all-star groups participating at the concert.

Back in New York, the trio met in the studios and re-recorded “Dark Prince,” “Continuum” and “Para Oriente.” The master takes of each of those pieces were released on sampler sets at the time, while this CD also adds two “new” false starts of “Para Oriente.”

While the overall music is not essential, it is intriguing and a welcome addition to the discographies of these three giants. It is such a pity though that the Trio of Doom did not record much more extensively.

In mixing the concert portion of the CD, John McLauglin (the group’s only surviving member) realized that Williams’ cymbal microphones were not connected. Despite that flaw, the recording quality is pretty decent for 1979, and particularly for this type of intense and at times dense trio. The original studio dates by Tony Williams’ Lifetime with McLaughlin from the early 1970s are famous for their lousy and distorted sound quality, but that is not the case here. Particularly during the studio performances, one can clearly hear each of the musicians, and the magic of the music from this legendary if short-lived group survives.

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