Songs & length
7 Songs, 52 Minutes
An entirely self-taught composer, Phillips debuted the solo Protocol project in 1989, then revived it in quartet form on Protocol II(2013), Protocol III (2015) and Protocol IV (2017). Throughout, Phillips has grown his vision for an instrumental music with pop sensibility and lyrical, almost singable melody, all over a complex and elusive harmonic foundation. Of the original members (guitarist Andy Timmons, keyboardist Steve Weingart, bassist Ernest Tibbs), Tibbs remains in the fold; he joined keyboardist Dennis Hamm(Thundercat) and guitar virtuoso Greg Howe for Protocol IV. He is gamely on board again for Protocol V, partnering with the group’s newest members: veteran keyboard magician Otmaro Ruiz and two prodigiously gifted young players that Tibbs himself recommended, guitarist Alex Sill and saxophonist Jacob Scesney.
As tasteful as he is technically brilliant (hear his solo on the closing epic “The Long Way Home”), Tibbs stands in a long line of bassists who’ve experienced firsthand the power and creativity of Phillips’ drumming, among them Jack Bruce, Stanley Clarke, Anthony Jackson, Herbie Flowers, Brian Odgers and more. “With Ernest, it’s always grooving no matter how tricky the music is,” Phillips says. “That’s so important to me.” Ruiz, a Venezuelan native with credits including John McLaughlin, Dianne Reeves and Frank Gambale, adds endless sonic capabilities and an advanced harmonic palette — an environment in which Sill and Scesney thrive as they execute Phillips’ tricky unison and contrapuntal themes and challenging rhythms and forms.
With the new lineup in place, Phillips set about writing new material that would harness its full potential. He leads off with the full-tilt energy of “Jagganath” and crushing funk of “Isosceles,” venturing into more mysterious waters with “Nyanga” before launching into the 19/16 burner “Undeviginti” (Latin for 19, literally “20 less one”). “Whatever meter I’m in, I always try to make it grooveable and play it the simplest way possible,” says Phillips. “When we were learning this one, Otmaro asked me, ‘What is the clave?’ Once I clapped out the pseudo-clave for 19, he got it right away. And when you’ve got it you don’t need to count anymore.”