Ah, the old cliché — all good things must come to an end. For Charlotte jazz-jammers Actual Proof, the band is signing off with a new album. Since 2007, AP has undergone lineup changes and minor identity crises all while building a steady fan base in the Carolinas. Now, as the band settles into its finest groove to date with the release of Wavelength, the idea of calling it quits is intensely anticlimactic.
Since the start, vibraphonist Eric Mullis has driven Actual Proof's funkified, jam-heavy, accessible jazz-fusion, but with Wavelength there's a balance in the sonic force. Mullis' vibes have become more complimentary instead of controlling and in the lengthy jams are sparks of brilliance.
"Isis" kicks the album off with the band's best Herbie Hancock-inspired groove. While "Chico Jones" starts with heavy vibraphone, the song quickly builds up to Zappa-esque interplay between Mullis and guitarist Greg Dalton. Instead of dominating the soundscapes they create, each band member has a chance to shine. Dustin Hofsess lets his guitar walk through a Steve Vai-like dream on the 11-minute "Lacuna." Classical jazz elements infiltrate "Turbulence" as the spotlight ricochets between piano and keyboards until Philip Berkeley III showcases a bit of low-end as his bass drives the song back into a space-age groove.
While instrumental music — there is, however, sporadic vocoder appearances on the album — can be difficult to grasp, Actual Proof bounces among speeds and genres to keep you interested for an hour's worth of music.
Catch the band's farewell performance at its CD release show at the Neighborhood Theatre on Oct. 12.
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