Certainly the potential of a recording by this trio featuring guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Tony Williams (both members of Lifetime with organist Larry Young) along with bassist Jaco Pastorius -- aka the Trio of Doom -- is enormous. This compilation contains a performance of the trio at the Havana Jam in 1979, a U.S. State Department-sponsored cultural tour by a large number of American musicians who played on the same stage as Cuban aces. The band rehearsed and had about 25 minutes on the stage. Five days after leaving Cuba, the band reconvened in a New York City studio and recut most of the tracks. The studio versions (cuts six, seven, and ten) were released on a pair of various-artists compilations from the Cuban concert. McLaughlin felt at the time that the live performances were unusable because of Pastorius' playing. He relates the details in brief in the liner notes by Bill Milkowski. What this means, of course, is that out of ten cuts here, seven have never been released before. That said, the sum total of all the music that the group cut together is a little less than 40 minutes. From this, the opening drum solo by Williams takes up nearly three, and 20 seconds is of an alternate take of the drummer's "Para Oriente." But this is not a dodgy rip simply assembled to make money from the stuff of myth. Well, it is designed to make money from myth, but there is some seriously intense music here. For starters, Williams' drum solo that opens the album is to die for. There is no excess, no showing off -- only an intense orgy of rhythm. When McLaughlin and Pastorius join him, the crowd must have gone crazy because he shifts nonstop into the guitarist's composition "Dark Prince." While his solo is overdriven, distorted, and rangy, full of angles and twists and turns, Jaco's playing on the head, and in taking the tune out, is solid. Perhaps at the time this didn't seem up to snuff, but it's hard to hear that based on the disc. The entire band is engaged with focused attention, ascending scalar and harmonic peaks together for its six and a half minutes. It is followed by a beautiful ballad by Pastorius called "Continuum," which appeared on his self-titled solo debut for Columbia. It's a gorgeous and deeply melodic ballad, and the bassist's playing is intensely soulful and lyrical. McLaughlin's chord shadings and voicings are not only supportive, they bring weight and depth, as does the beautiful hi-hat work of Williams. (Speaking of which, on "Dark Prince" and elsewhere, it's obvious that Williams is the true inventor of the blastbeat, not some generic heavy metal drummer. To hear his incessant bass drum and chronic cymbal-and-snare workouts is inspiring.) "Are You the One, Are You the One?," written by McLaughlin, closes the live set, and it's a funky, kinetic, and knotty jam with Williams playing breaks as well as pummeling the toms to get the funk up out of the thing. Pastorius' groove is incessant, even when he is matching the guitarist note for contrapuntal note. That's the good news. The studio versions of these cuts may "sound" better technically -- mostly due to the amplification and balance given the drum kit -- but they lack the raw edginess of the live sides. Still, fans of the fusion era, and those interested in any of these personas, will be much edified by what is found here. If only there were more of it.
Performance CreditsTrio of Doom Primary Artist
John McLaughlin Guitar,Group Member
Jaco Pastorius Bass,Bass Guitar,Group Member
Tony Williams Drums,Group Member
Technical CreditsJohn McLaughlin Composer,Producer,Liner Notes,Reissue Producer
Jaco Pastorius Composer
Tony Williams Composer
Richard Seidel Executive Producer
Bert de Coteaux Producer,Audio Production
Bill Milkowski Liner Notes
Howard Fritzson Art Direction
Michael Guthrie Engineer
Mike Bernicker Audio Production
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jazz isn't just music. If it were, half of jazz music wouldn't be considered jazz, it would be something else. Instead, jazz is an idea. It is an attitude, a way of life. It is, unlike classical music, highly improvisational and visceral, reacting (and shaping) the moment rather than imposing it's creators past mood upon the present. Unlike rock, jazz does not attempt to express emotions such as joy or rage. It instead shows what it means to be human, conveying a wide range of emotions within each note and every song. The musicians are not charactures upon a stage, they are humans telling you what it means to be human. It is in these senses that Trio of Doom Live truly succeeds. All of it's players are tremendously talented and tragic figures. Spiritually driven McLaughlin, eternally youthful Tony Williams, and doomed genius Jaco Pastorius blend there unique styles into a powerful and exilerating ride. McLaughlin's playing sears across the soundscape, scorching with holy fire as he battles against the demons that seek to destroy his carefully crafted musical refuge. Pastorius, who was to be struck down with one of his most legendary bouts of depression later during the set, feels particularly driven in his playing. Unleashing blazing, angular runs, unbelievably sensual groove, and greasy slithering fills througout Dark Prince, he slips into a more spiritual groove through his composition Continuum. Here his playing is respectful and even prayerful, trying desperately to hold on to his mind. Truly some of the legends most inspired playing. Williams provides the sonic answer to the spiritual whip driving the music forward with his perfect drumming. Alternatively thrashing on his cymbols while blasting his skins or laying down a pocket as deep as the sea, Williams threatens, prods, and entices the musicians (and the listener) throughout the set. The studio songs are simply tamer versions of the live set. In short, there has been no greater era defining collection of jazz musicians since the legendary Quintet at Massey Hall. An absolute essential listen.