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In 1995, guitarist Chuck Loeb, keyboardist Mitch Forman, bassist Anthony Jackson, and drummer Wolfgang Haffner offered up a cool middle ground for those whose instrumental tastes fall between smooth jazz and bebop; as Metro, the band released the edgy yet often laid-back Tree People on Lipstick Records, which harked back to the fusion heydays of the 1970s, when jamming improvisations ruled and radio didn't worry so much about offending anyone's ears. With Victor Bailey replacing Jackson, Metro finally re-emerged with this eclectic effort, which blends Loeb's keen pop/rock sensibilities with Forman's obvious love for both elegant piano jazz and retro-funk and -blues. The inviting Metrocafe rises and falls on the dynamic interaction between these two musical styles. The graceful, film score-like "House and Home" features Loeb's eloquent acoustic subtlety caressed by both Forman's acoustic piano harmony and synth orchestra; then Forman takes over the lead melody, which grows slightly more aggressive and improvisational as he is egged on by Haffner's march-like drum lines. Forman's strong Rhodes playing, along with Bailey's bubbling bass, is the driving force behind the title track, which also features Loeb's balance of insanity and grace. Loeb has long used his wife, vocalist Carmen Cuesta, on his solo albums, and her wordless vocals add a touch of exotica and silkiness to the perky Brazilian-flavored "It's All Good." Loeb always seems to hold back on his popular smooth jazz recordings, and it's good to hear him go for broke with his crisp yet expansive lines on funk-filled jams like "Month of Sundays."

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