Trio Mundo reconvenes following its '02 release, Carnaval , and this time reedman Steve Slagle, a guest on that recording and collaborator with guitarist Dave Stryker in the Stryker/Slagle Band, is more of a full-fledged member, performing on almost all tracks and contributing one composition to the programme of original compositions by Stryker, bassist Andy McKee and percussionist/vocalist Manolo Badrena. Trio Mundo Rides Again is a captivating album that moves Latin music into the 21st century with complete verve and innovation.
What makes Trio Mundo special is that, while Latin rhythms and constructs are the foundation on which it operates, the group has a far broader reach, even going as far afield as Africa for Stryker's upbeat "Africano" and India for the closing track, Stryker's compelling "Shanti." Their sheer enthusiasm is not only evident, it's overriding. Whether on Stryker's "Mundo Rides Again," which combines a Scofield-like melody with Badrena's vivid percussion including work on a drum kit for the first time, Badrena's African highlife-informed "Cameroun," or McKee's bossa-inflected "Dream Maurice," which takes a Ravel melody as its inspiration, there is an honesty, a total lack of affectation and complete commitment that makes this a difficult disk to take out of the player.
And while the group was formed originally as a showcase for Badrena, it is quite possibly Stryker who shines the brightest in a group of uniformly radiant players. Like guitarist Vic Juris, whose latest ZOHO release, Blue Horizon , comes out on the same day, this is a guitarist who is easily the equal of his more well-known contemporaries. With an appealing fat tone, broad harmonic knowledge and recognizable style, Stryker may have established a reputation for being a blues-drenched, soulful player who has backed such similarly-minded artists as Stanley Turrentine, Kevin Mahogany and Brother Jack McDuffand there is no shortage of soul on tracks like McKee's "Hot Ice"but the truth is that his reach is far wider.
Badrena, of course, emerged in the mid-'70s, and quickly became percussionist of choice for a wide variety of artists, including Joni Mitchell and, most notably, Weather Report (his association with Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul continues to this day in Zawinul's Syndicate). As a key member of Steve Khan's Eyewitness band in the late '80s and early '90s, he continued to keep the Latin tradition alive and contemporary. But it is with Trio Mundo that he is arguably given the most freedom, and that musical liberty pays big dividends on Trio Mundo Rides Again. Working regularly in the New York area as well as in Europe, Trio Mundo proves that tradition does not have to be synonymous with stagnation. The way music is moved forward is to take the rules of tradition, bend them and, on occasion, even break them, and Trio Mundo's respectful irreverence for the Latin tradition makes it a group that is absolutely vital to the furtherance of contemporary jazz.
Personnel: Manolo Badrena (drums, percussion, vocals, nylon-string guitar on "Cameroun," "Pinare