It is reported that this is Phillips’ first studio album in five years. The fifty-two-minute, seven-song album is very listenable jazz. Overall it is melodic, with some ventures into fusion, but in each case, we are delivered back into a recognizable song — there is nothing here that resembles a trip to an alternate universe. There are no bad tracks on this album, but I suggest previewing track 1. “Jagannath”, track 5. “When the Cat’s Away”, and track 7. “The Long Road Home” if you want to know why this band is built around an extraordinary drummer and his kit.
I had always assumed that Protocol was the name of Phillips’ band, it is actually a music project, the first EP (Protocol) released in 1988, with Phillips performing all of the instruments. From Protocol II (2013) going forward, bassist Ernest Tibbs is credited on all albums in the series, Tibbs is also a Toto alum. With the nucleus of the band established, Otmaro Ruíz is on keyboards, this appears to be his first Protocol recording credit, but a Wikipedia photo caption has him touring with Phillips as early as 2017. Ruiz has recorded with Herb Alpert, Tito Puente, and Robbie Robertson.
Outside of the boomer generation, two young soloists, guitarist Alex Sill and reed player Jacob Scesney have been touring with the group since 2019. These two are extremely tight together and at times you might believe that you are listening to two saxophones playing in unison, they definitely deserve the limelight they share fronting this powerhouse band.
Protocol V (links)
Simon Phillips Band (shows)