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Simon Phillips: Protocol III

Powerful performances set Protocol’s jazz rock apart.

When not stoking the rhythmic boiler for Hiromi’s high-octane jazz trio, drummer Simon Phillips’ solo outfit Protocol has quietly built up a reputation for energetic jazz-rock with an emphasis on the rock part of that equation.

Here Phillips is once again reunited with Andy Timmons (guitar) Ernest Tibbs (bass) and Steve Weingart (keys), and the quartet display their formidable chops without any of the bombast or empty bluster blighting some quarters of the genre. This is no accident, rather a measure of the detailed compositions and judiciously dynamic arrangements therein. Timmons’ raucous, lapel-grabbing tone provides the lead voice while allowing room enough for Phillips’ highly articulated playing to apply intensity and spirit. He has a habit of slipping an infectious, winning backbeat under the other players’ soloing, and this often kicks everything into that fifth gear. Though current, there’s an undeniably 70s feel in some parts of the album. The down-tempo ballads flirt with an smoochy LA-filtered funk, while Narmada and Undercover sizzle with an upbeat, barreling energy suggestive of early Weather Report’s joyous, circuitous themes. It’s pulse-racing stuff.

Sid Smith
Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.