Trio of Doom: Dark Prince (live)


Dark Prince (live)


Trio of Doom


Trio of Doom (Columbia/Legacy 82796 96450 2)

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John McLaughlin (electric guitar), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by John McLaughlin


Recorded: Havana, Cuba, March 3, 1979


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Very briefly in the late 1970s there was a cooling down of the rhetoric between the United States and communist Cuba. During this time, it seemed natural to promote a cross-cultural event that celebrated the music of both countries. Thus, the Havana Jam was created. In March 1979, many western musicians, both pop and jazz, visited Havana to share the stages with accomplished Cuban musicians.

Trio of Doom was patched together for this event. Its three great members represented the highest in musicianship. Guitarist John McLaughlin and bass phenom Jaco Pastorius were riding the waves of fusion stardom with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, respectively. They had spent some time rehearsing their short set, and were ready to go on stage. When they played, however, Jaco decided to take a different route than what had been rehearsed. The music was still very well received. But it was not what McLaughlin and drummer Tony Williams expected. They were both very angry with Pastorius. McLaughlin was so incensed that he refused to allow Columbia to release a recording of the set. Columbia and the trio eventually agreed to rerecord the cuts in studio, which versions with pumped-in crowd noise initially appeared as part of the compilation Havana Jam. The live versions were never released. Some 30 years after the fact, Columbia/Legacy approached McLaughlin about the live performances. Three decades is a long time. McLaughlin listened to the set and found that his mind had changed enough about the performance to allow its release. In fact, he became the producer of the reissue.

"Dark Prince" (which McLaughlin had earlier recorded for his One Truth band's Electric Dreams) is a paean to Miles Davis. Williams, who had more history with Miles than John, opens the tune with a rushed enthusiasm. McLaughlin, with Jaco doubling, introduces the catchy, chopped melody. Shortly after takeoff, the two stringed gunslingers are off at a million miles a minute on an exploratory mission. They shred as only they could. Williams supplies powerful thrusts and parries. Frankly, he sounds a bit like Billy Cobham in the process. The music seems to break down a bit during the break. Is this when Jaco went off script? At the same time, these disconnected shrieks, groans and thuds have a certain interest. Is it free jazz? Or is it Jaco confusing the hell out of John and Tony who have to play along? Either scenario is intriguing. Soon the break is over and the trio resumes its regularly scheduled programming.

It turns out that when the trio later went into the studio, John, and especially Tony, continued to have problems with Jaco. Now it is thought that Jaco was in the early stages of mental illness at the time. It was too bad for Jaco and his family. And it was too bad for the rest of us. If the timing had been right and all well with Jaco, the Trio of Doom could have become a fusion supergroup of the highest order.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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