Trio Of Doom

John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams

Over the years, much has been said about power trios. From Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience to ZZ Top and the Police, three-piece bands harbor a delicate, yet incendiary economy that carefully and succinctly tenderizes each and every musical note. If you have only three musicians, there’s little room to spare in terms of arrangement, musicianship and soloing. Just ask Emerson, Lake and Palmer about that. Still, when every player is at the top of their game, it’s like a hat trick without the special effects. In the case of the very short-lived, jazz-fusion Trio Of Doom, bringing three virtuosos together was beyond the confines of any supernatural concoction comprising this or any other planet. Yeah, it was out of this world.

So, what happens when you put drummer Tony Williams and guitarist John McLaughlin (both of whom rose through the ranks playing with Miles Davis) alongside über bassist Jaco Pastorius? Without even hearing a note, fans familiar with these players would instinctively buckle their seatbelts and hold on for dear life. Whether or not that took place on March 3, 1979 at the Havana Jam when these three masters united for a one-time live performance is subject to speculation; however, the fireworks exploded that night for 25 minutes during the “Bay Of Gigs.” Previously unreleased until now, the five tunes comprising the first portion of the Trio Of Doom CD shed light on the combustible chemistry ignited by this fiery grouping. No, this isn’t music for the faint at heart.

Williams pounds out a brief solo, then an intro for McLaughlin’s “Dark Prince,” which places the guitarist and Pastorius in tandem, axes a-blazing. If this didn’t stir Fidel Castro from his slumber, nothing ever will. We’re talking freeform improvisation at its mightiest. Pastorious’ “Continuum” pursues a stricter regimen — a mellow, sweeping discharge of textures from McLaughlin that allows the bassist to weave in and out, creating a poetic collage of sound and technique you rarely hear between two players. “Para Oriente” pushes its thick and chunky self forward, heaving and hoing, ebbing and flowing, and circling around again before giving way to another stunning display of Williams’ unnerving prowess on ”Are You The One, Are You The One?” from McLaughlin’s 1979 release, Electric Guitarist. If you’re not out of breath and disoriented after this mercurial work-out, you can get another view of three of these tracks from a New York City studio session that occurred five days after the Havana concert. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall on 52nd Street that magical day. It might still be digging itself out of the wreckage.

BTW.... If you can't get enough of these increidble musicians, Legacy has pulled out a couple of dandies in the form of The Essential John McLaughlin and The Essential Jaco Pastorius. Both of these double-CD compilations feature the best of each artist's solo work, as well as collaborations with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Jack Bruce, Pat Metheny and many others.

~ Shawn Perry

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