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Simon Phillips: Protocol II

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British drummer Simon Phillips is on a recent roll, no pun intended. His work on Japanese keyboardist Hiromi’s 2014 release, Alive, helped make it the best of the three efforts by their Trio Project with bassist Anthony Jackson. And the drummer’s latest project, Protocol II, a bookend to his 1988 solo debut, Protocol, is the best of his releases as a bandleader.

It’s a pleasant surprise, considering that Phillips put together the recording sessions spur-of-the-moment over only a few days with guitarist Andy Timmons, keyboardist Steve Weingart and bassist Ernest Tibbs (a musician he’d never worked with before). But the spontaneity paid off. Phillips’ opening composition, “Wildfire,” with Timmons’ distorted chords and a banner Weingart solo amid the rhythm section’s inside-out pattern, sounds like a nod to late drummer Tony Williams’ New Lifetime band from the mid-’70s. The slower “Soothsayer” was composed by the quartet, indicating creative spontaneity, yet with no less attitude. Timmons, guitarist for pop/metal band Danger Danger, displays both his jazz and rock arsenals with an effortless versatility approaching Phillips’.

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