Following up their strong 2002 debut, Carnaval (Khaeon), Trio Mundo does indeed ride again, on Joachim Becker's Khaeon-successor label, Zoho. The brainchild of guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Andy McKee and percussionist Manolo Badrena, Trio Mundo has gained a de facto fourth member in alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Slagle. As before, Stryker does most of the writing, with Badrena a close second-and two of Badrena's three entries, "Cameroun" and "Pinarena," are among the most outstanding Latin-jazz melodies in recent memory. Latin jazz isn't where it stops, though: the group touches on African, Brazilian and Indian reference points before the disc is through.
If Trio Mundo has a frontman, it is Badrena, who peppers the session with excited Spanish and English dialogue ("Don't stop now, don't stop now!"), beautiful singing and even some nylon-string guitar. He also plays a fair amount of drum kit, unlike on Carnaval, which foregrounded his djembe, congas and so forth. This gives Rides Again a more conventional timbre in some respects.
The other creative anchor here is the Stryker/Slagle partnership. Slagle played on only four of Carnaval's 11 tracks; here he's heard on all but two. He plays elegant soprano on Andy McKee's two pieces, "Dream Maurice" and "Hot Ice," and probing flute on Stryker's "Guille" and "Shanti." (The last, a nod to the subcontinent, parallels "Raga" from the previous album.) When Slagle, on alto, plays outside the harmony on the opening "Mundo Rides Again," Stryker is right there with him, and the moment is rich. Compositionally, Stryker's finest hour arrives with the intimate, Metheny-esque "Corazon," where electric and acoustic guitars meet Badrena's angelic voice in a touching rhapsody.