Album review: SIMON PHILLIPS – Protocol III

SIMON PHILLIPS - Protocol III

Phantom Recordings/Inakustik [Release date 23.10.15]

I must be getting old, but a bit of jazz fusion always seems to go down well especially when it’s well executed.  In 2014 we reviewed ‘Protocol II’ and opined it was ‘a superior jazz fusion album’.  ‘Protocol III’ is no different.  Once again, built around the sublime drumming of one-time Toto rhythm-meister Simon Phillips and joined, again, by the stellar talents of Andy Timmons (guitar), Steve Weingart (keys) and Ernest Tibbs (bass).

‘Narmada’ is the scene-setter with characteristic, immaculate, band interplay at times recalling some of Lenny White’s solo albums.  White of course was Return To Forever’s drummer and we have already commented that ‘Protocol’ is like a more commercial version of that seminal jazz fusion quartet.  But ‘Imaginary Ways’ is like something a latter-day Jeff Beck might pursue always held together by the tight rhythms of Tubbs and Phillips.

Phillips helpfully supplies liner notes so that we know that some of these compositions date back several years, the oldest to 1991.  A rock project with Timmons that never materialised offered up ‘Outlaw’ whilst ‘Catalyst’ and ‘Circle Seven’ allow more scope for Steve Weingart’s keys.  Phillips notes the ‘one-take’ nature of the recordings with bridge sections constructed on the hoof.  Nice.

As with the previous release, Phillips never dominates and his deftness of touch and sensitivity allows his fellow musicians to breathe and to shine.  Especially Timmons. This album is a must for those who sought out ‘II’ and for lovers of jazz fusion in general, even if it does make you feel a little bit old and, well, maybe a little uncool as well.  *****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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