The first Protocol record was recorded in May 1988 and released in 1989 by “Food For Thought” records. It was a 5-track instrumental “mini-album” of demos that I’d been shopping to various record companies at the time. I had recently installed my own studio for production work so I recorded all the instruments myself. I was keen to get the record out into the world directly! Feedback was positive but it just wasn’t the right time for an instrumental signing.
The inspiration for the style of music came from co-composing music with Tony Hymas for Jeff Beck’s 1980 release, “There & Back”, and was a very rock approach to jazz fusion. I continued to write music in the same vein but with more involved arrangements, culminating in “Force Majeure”, a live album recorded with the very first version of Protocol, featuring Ray Russell (guitar), Anthony Jackson (bass) and Tony Roberts (horns).
After moving to the USA, I continued to write music for what would become “Symbiosis” (1995) This did not carry the Protocol name, but paved the way for what became my first serious touring band. Featuring Andy Timmons (guitar), Jimmy Earl (bass), Jeff Babko (keys) and Wendell Brooks (horns), we toured Europe extensively in January and February of 1997. For our summer tour Jerry Watts replaced Jimmy Earl (who had other commitments).
Hot on the heels of that tour I was back in writing mode for the next album, “Another Lifetime,” which featured the same touring band but with Anthony Jackson on bass and with the addition of Ray Russell on guitar for the recording sessions. More touring in Japan and the US followed and, in 1998, the band hit the road in Europe to support the release of “Another Lifetime”.
I put together a small recording system for both of these tours (an 8-track for the “Symbiosis” tour and a 16-track for the “Another Lifetime” tour) and, in 1999, mixed a live album, which was released as “Out Of The Blue.”
By then, I felt ready for a detour from the type of jazz fusion music I had written for the last 20 years and embarked on a project with Jeff Babko called “Vantage Point”. It was really exhilarating to re-visit straight-ahead be-bop after so many years and we recorded that album in just one day at my house in Sherman Oaks. This release featured Dave Carpenter (bass), Walt Fowler (trumpet), Brandon Fields (tenor & soprano)and, of course, my co-conspiriter Jeff Babko on piano. “Vantage Point” was released in 2000 and the same band toured Europe in early 2001.
At that point, I became busy with Toto and a number of other productions and my solo projects took a back seat for awhile, but I was still composing and building up a collection of tunes for future use.
There were two different configurations of the band during this period: 2008 saw Andy Timmons on guitar, Steve Weingart on keys, Everett Harp on horns and Del Atkins on bass. In 2009, the band featured Mike Miller on guitar, Mitch Forman on keys, Melvin Lee Davis on bass, and Everett Harp on horns.
There were a few false starts during the 2000s. I recorded a couple of tunes but I wasn’t happy with my compositions at the time. Then, in early 2013, came the opportunity to record with some of my favorite players. The NAMM show meant that Andy Timmons was in LA so I approached Andy and Steve Weingart with the idea of recording a jam record. Melvin Lee Davis had been playing bass with the band on a few selected dates during this period but was not available to tour later in the year. Enter Ernest Tibbs who has been with Protocol ever since. Once the studio was booked I put together the demos of tunes that I felt could be a starting point for the music and sent them out to the guys. To my delight they loved what I had sent them and from there it was just a matter of arranging, and coming up with some other sections as needed.
We began recording on January 29th, 2013 and by February 1st had 6 tunes in the can. A couple of other sessions and the record was ready to mix! I distinctly remember thinking whilst we were recording that this should be called Protocol II. It had been 25 years since I recorded Protocol I and it felt so good playing with this lineup. This was the Protocol I had always imagined!
Following a tour with the Protocol II band, I was back in full writing mode and, in October of 2014, we went back into the studio to record Protocol III.
Following the rigors of extensive touring and, ever in search of new sounds, I again changed the configuration of the band. Greg Howe (guitar) and Dennis Hamm (keyboards) joined Ernest and myself to record Protocol IV on February 5th,2017. It certainly was a different sound and it took a little while to get used to but the change in line-up was perfect for the new music.
We toured extensively throughout Europe, Japan, China and the US over the next few years and the record was very well received both critically and commercially. To my great surprise Protocol IV was nominated for a Grammy in 2018 in the Contemporary Instrumental category but, on the night, I was pipped at the post by the redoubtable Steve Gadd.
By 2019 I was ready to shake things up again. The latest version of Protocol comprises Otmaro Ruiz (keys), Alexander Sill (guitar), Jacob Scesney (horns), and Ernest Tibbs (bass). I was writing music with a slightly different slant by then and, in 2020, with this brand new instrumental lineup, we recorded a really exciting new album: Protocol V.