I don't think the name Simon Phillips needs any intro to any progressive rock or fusion fan. Starting as a sought after studio musician; from Judas Priest to Mike Oldfield and Nimbus, he has played so many albums. His name grew when he took over the role of drummer, when Toto's original member Jeff Porcaro passed away and that established his name! The other side of Simon's music are the adventures jazz rock and fusion escapades, music for connoisseurs and instrumental aficionados.
In 1988 Simon Phillips released his first solo album that was called Protocol, many albums would follow, holding a wide variety of guest musicians. Years later the format of a quartet was used again to record Protocol II and later Protocol III. 2017 sees a new line-up and a new album; Protocol 4. This time the accompanying musicians are none the less than maestro guitarist Greg Howe, who released solo albums and shared the stage with pop icons as Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson as well as numerous fusion outfits. Bass player Ernest Tibbs has also worked with a lot of popular musicians and shares the fusion community with Howe and keyboard player Dennis Hamm.
The album itself holds the highest level of craftsmanship you can expect, regarding this line-up. Tremendous grooves and delicate oriental influences can be found on Passage To Agra, while an almost Latin swing dominates the Jeff Beck influence Azores. Greg Howe shows he's an amazing guitar player during the album's opener Nimbus. An incredible jazz rock tune with as well mood as tempo changes and room for every instrumentalist to enjoy they solo moment. The spirit of Steve Lukather gently dwells over this majestic opener. What stands out in my opinion, is the fact, although Protcol 4 is Simon Phillips solo album, it doesn't feel like that. As a great drummer, he never really dominates the album, which gives the album a very coherent overall feeling. Protocol 4 is as much an Howe, Tibbs and Hamm album as it is a Phillips album and that is meant as a big compliment, regarding the solo albums of some fellow drummers.
Overall Protocol 4 is a very interesting album, everything passes on a quiet modest pace, without any nervous breakdowns of musicians who like to prove themselves. A very pleasant album as I said. Obligated to jazz rock and instrumental music fans.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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