Review: Trio of Doom
Label: Legacy Recordings
Released: September 30, 2008
The term "supergroup" may be popular music's greatest misnomer. Sure, supergroups are typically made up of musicians who have done some super things, but more often than not, the meeting of their superness is just not all that, well, super. So, as legendary as the meeting of Jaco Pastorius, John McLaughlin and Tony Williams may have become over the years, there's always room for skepticism.
Trio of Doom, as Pastorius called the two-time meeting of these three great musicians, is not the typical supergroup though. They formed to play a live set at the 1979 Havana Jam festival in Cuba, so it wasn't a commercial endeavor. However, they brought such great stuff to that stage that they reconvened in New York a week later and put the songs down in the studio. For whatever reason, those tapes (both from the live ad studio sets) sat around until Trio of Doom was released on CD last year. Now, they arrive in the format they were intended for in 1979.
The songs here may not be among any of the artists' top work (though likely not too far off either), but the performance is what makes this greater than the songs themselves. Pastorius brings the fierce intensity that made him such a dominant force on an instrument often kept in the background. McLaughlin's otherworldly playing is as good as perhaps it ever was. But, it is Williams' drumming that forms the common ground between these two planes and a lesser talent would let the whole set fall to pieces. The studio tracks are no more refined, expressing fusion in its truest sense with all the power and agility of a rock power trio.
So often, supergroups lose focus and power in the virtuosity of their component players, making music that limps and struggles and ultimately fizzles. Trio of Doom, on the other hand, burned brightly, intensely and quickly for a few weeks in 1979. Years later, we finally know what a supergroup really should be.
Last year, music fans received a gift that had been withheld from them for nearly 30 years with the release of Trio of Doom on CD. This year, Legacy Recordings makes that gift even sweeter with this beautiful 180 gram vinyl issue.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.