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A special piece of history

Trio of Doom - Live
(Sony BMG)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 29, 2007
Trio of Doom

Review by Wade Vonasek

Just what would one expect from a group consisting of John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius and Tony Williams? A Trio of Doom, of course! In the album's liner notes, McLaughlin, the last surviving member, says the name was Jaco's idea, adding, "While this might seem kind of gloomy, the name stuck." Upon listening to these tracks, one probably won't be able to stop from wondering what could have been, had the trio taken their collaboration further.

The album consists of five live tracks recorded in March of 1979 in Cuba, at the historic Havana Jam, along with studio versions recorded five days after the Cuba show of McLaughlin's "Dark Prince," Jaco's "Continuum," and three different takes of Williams' "Para Oriente." The live portion starts off with a two and a half minute drum improvisation from Williams, full of rolling toms and a dynamic ending. "Dark Prince" sounds like three soloists, somehow in unison, and was probably a musical workout for the trio. "Continuum" takes on a new dimension in comparison to the version on Jaco's self-titled debut, with the added guitar and William's cymbals layering in the background. "Para Oriente" is a mid-tempo piece, and features some swift, tasty licks courtesy of Jaco. In "Are You The One, Are You The One?" the instruments tease the listener at the beginning before finally hitting high gear. McLaughlin's slightly gritty tone gives the live tracks a certain edge, and there is superb musicianship throughout, as one would expect from these artists.

The studio versions don't stray very far from the live versions. The drums have a more polished sound and are slightly more prevalent in "Dark Prince," and the chorus-y guitar in "Continuum" adds a peaceful, inward-looking texture. "Para Oriente" takes on a funkier feel than the live version, and the alternate takes are also cool to hear.

As a bonus, the liner notes written by Bill Mikowski, author of Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, are very informative, and a treat for music history buffs. And not only does this album document a special piece of history, it also just happens to be good too.

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