Simon Phillips is a tremendous drummer who has paid his dues with Frank Zappa, The Who, Jeff Beck, Toto, and even Judas Priest. He’s also a talented engineer, producer, and composer who’s been building a solo catalogue since the 1980s.
On his fourth album, Protocol, Phillips drafts bassist Ernest Tibbs, keyboardist Dennis Hamm, and the incomparable Greg Howe on guitar (this project makes up for the conflicting schedules that didn’t allow Howe to record with Planet X’s Derek Sherinian and Virgil Donati).
This album is unadulterated ’70s jazz-rock with better sounds. Nine masterfully produced compositions bring together classical, jazz, rock, and world music. Howe’s agile phrasing and soulful note selection is dazzling.
Simon’s compositions take the listener on a multitude of hard turns. They’re peppered with complex rhythms and provocative melodies as Howe spreads his elastic melodicism.
From the odd-time funkiness of “Solitaire” to the anthemic “Phantom Voyage,” the band displays prodigious chemistry. Progressive sounds merge with exotic grooves as on “Passage To Agra.” “Azorez” displays the kind of ensemble power and standing ovation guitar playing that will give jazz-rock fans the hit they’ve been jonesing for.
This article originally appeared in VG April 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.