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Metro: Metrocafe

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Somewhere between smooth jazz and raw fusion sits Metro, who dish out wailing guitar and keyboard solos while keeping an eye on fun funk. Metrocafe, the third CD from guitarist Chuck Loeb, keyboardist Mitchel Forman, bassist Victor Bailey and drummer Wolfgang Haffner, has a softer edge than earlier works, yet it retains a sense of adventure.

Loeb, who recently picked up a best contemporary jazz award from the Association for Independent Music for Listen, shakes off his easygoing tendencies for some spirited solos, noticeably on cuts such as “Metrocafe” and “Field of Diamonds.” But the magical Loeb’s touch is happily present in such melodic tunes as “House and Home” and “Shadow Play.” Foreman, for his part, keeps his keys on the sidelines, laying down precise lines on the Metheny-like “It’s All Good” (which features the wordless vocals of Loeb’s wife, Carmen Cuesta) and “Month of Sundays.” Oddly, though, Forman’s memorable moments come less frequently on Metrocafe than on Metro’s earlier CDs.

Bottom line: A good choice for smooth jazz fans with a couple of cups of coffee under their belts, though Metrocafe isn’t raw enough for the new wave of fusion fanatics.