A band made up of the godfather of fusion guitar, the undisputed greatest innovator of the electric bass guitar and the best drummer of them all is a fusion jazz dream. And for the very briefest of time, John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius and Tony Williams formed a power trio to top all power trios. One that Jaco coined "The Trio Of Doom."
It became more fittingly "The Doomed Trio." Here's how it happened.
In 1979 the U.S State Department sponsored a trip of prominent American musicians to play in Havana, Cuba along with Cuba's finest in a musical summit event formally called "Havana Jam," and nicknamed "The Bay Of Gigs." All of the American artists, from primarily the jazz, fusion and rock genres were provided by Columbia Records, who organized the three day event. Williams, McLaughlin and Pastorius (through his membership in Weather Report) were all Columbia recording artists at the time and were all going to Havana. All three had played or jammed with one other, but never all three together. Since they were going to all be performing at the Jam anyway, they decided to get together for a single gig during the event, limited to only twenty-five minutes.
Astute fusion fans will already note that Williams and McLaughlin made up two thirds of the lineup of the original, seminal Lifetime band a decade earlier. But adding the hyper-talented but unpredictable Pastorius to the mix it was guaranteed to make this combo stand apart from the one where the bottom was being provided by Larry Young's bass pedals.
By McLaughlin's account, rehearsal went well, and the live sets kicks off with a Williams drum solo lasting just over two minutes. The polyrhythms, the tonal workings of the toms-toms and the cymbals crashes were all on display, the latter a surprise to hear so well because according to McLaughlin, the cymbal mics were turned off. Credit him and engineer Marcus Wippersburg for painstakingly restoring that previously lost layer of the recording.
Pretty soon, Williams settles into a kinetic 4/4 cymbal 'n' snare ride so familiar from his mid-sixties recordings with Miles, with Jaco and John together introducing the head for McLaughlin's "Dark Prince." McLaughlin is soon soloing with abandon like it's 1970 all over again. In the meantime, Jaco has cranked up his amp, gone off on another chord, and begins to let it all hang out, Jimi Hendrix style. It's an odd circumstance: two guys playing together and another (Pastorius) playing something incompatible and yet all three are playing their asses off.