McLaughlin/Pastorius/Williams – Trio of Doom

Trio of Doom
(Sony – 2007)
by Mark Ruffin

This group appeared in public only once and that was at the famous Havana Jam in 1979. The group and the album is called the Trio of Doom and features fusion giants, John McLaughin on guitar, Tony Williams on drums and Jaco Pastorious on bass. Almost 30 years later, Columbia has finally released the group’s Live album (which was actually recorded in a New York recording studio five days later with audience ambience mixed in.)

Jaco Pastorious, once a teetotaler by this time was known as a prodigious imbiber and just showing signs of the mental illness that led to his death in 87. In the liner notes, McLaughlin says about Jaco, “something was going on with him that didn’t have too much to do with music. So when Columbia called to say they were going to put it out as a record, my initial reaction was you put it out over my dead body.” That led to the recording session in New York the following week. When he heard the tape three decades later, McLaughin had such a change of heart that he produced this re-issue with loving care, and fusion and guitar trio fans the world over should be thanking him.

The very pretty “Continuum”, the Jaco Pastorious anthem, is about all the sensitivity going on at this historic jam. This is a hard core power trio and they let you know it. But there isn’t a lot of music here… it is only 40 minutes total. For some weird reason, two very short false starts are among the ten tracks, including one for 20: seconds. Another track is a tony Williams drum solo.

They were only given 25 minutes on stage playing four songs, the three other tracks are the repeated studio versions released on Havana Jam. The drummer and the bassist each contributed famous compositions, and McLaughin did two of his. The most interesting track may be Tony Williams’ Para Oriente, What’s cool about it is that Jaco wrote it for this electric band, but it actually became famous in the acoustic band VSOP, the classic quintet Williams was in with Herbie, Freddie, Wayne and Ron.

If you’re the average jazz fusion fan I can think of tons of classic albums for you to spend your $15 to $20. But if you love Jaco, Tony and John, Trio of Doom it is a newly unearthed gem. For fusion lovers only.