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CD review: Actual Proof's Paradigm Shift 

The Deal: Intense, quietly persuasive philosophy professor forms a nimble jazz band and quietly, subtly, rocks out. With vibes in the lead, Dr. Eric Mullis (yes, he has a doctorate) and Actual Proof perform as a quartet; drums, electric bass and keyboards. The new album, Paradigm Shift, was released on July 31, 2009.

The Good: Though not cutting-edge, the music is nevertheless imaginative, playful, lively and inventive. Paradigm Shift is a clean, nicely recorded disk, taped nearby in Gastonia. The entire recording is listenable and likeable, and there's not one cut that makes you want to skip tracks, lose breakfast or slash wrists. Edgy opener "The Ion" sets the pace, while "Mongo" surprises with changing tempos and Latinesque tone. There's piano-playing elegance on "Island" while there's even a Grover Washington soundalike on "The Ride."

The Bad: To me, vibist Lionel Hampton's a bore and even Gary Burton is a yawner. But catching a live Actual Proof set at Pura Vida, I became a properly appreciative, supportive and learned to love the vibraphone.

The Verdict: Not jazz fusion, not excessively smooth, this is a disk worthy of attention. It's got its own direction, style and identity. It's as close as you'll get to real jazz in Charlotte, a notorious cemetery for aspiring jazzbos – complete with improv breaks and tight, spontaneous, musicianship. This is as good as the genre gets.

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