Drummer Simon Phillips returns to Yoshi’s in Oakland this Thursday night for what promises to be a most interesting show. Thursday’s show is actually a rescheduled performance, following the loss of Phillips’ home to the fires in Ventura last December. The tour has now resumed, with shows that began in New York, then off to Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and now Oakland. Those who have followed Phillips’ musical career closely, know his musical prowess knows no bounds, supporting the likes of Pete Townsend, Stanley Clarke, the rock group Toto and most recently, Hiromi’s Trio Project with Anthony Jackson. Phillips returns with the latest incarnation of his solo group Protocol, featuring new guitarist Greg Howe, keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz, and returning bassist, the ever tasty Ernest Tibbs.
Phillips’ earlier versions of Protocol, (II & III), saw the fiery guitar work of Andy Timmons and the fabulous textures of keyboardist Steve Weingart propel Protocol to stand among some of the very best jazz rock quartets. Despite their departures, both Howe and Ruiz continue to not only probe and plumb the depths of those previous albums on tour, they’ve added a unique flavor all their own. On the newest album, entitled “Protocol IV”, keyboardist Dennis Hamm is featured, and performed admirably; In live performances, Ruiz has been able to cover the material with aplomb. Timmons shoes are tough to fill, however after having witnessed Howe performing on the now classic song “Moments of Fortune” from Protocol II, like Phillips, I was convinced Howe was more than up to the task.
And what more can one say about the inimitable Phiillips on drums? He continues to amaze as both a composer and studio engineer. Protocol IV’s opening cut “Nimbus” harkens the wonderful writing of Protocol II’s “Wildfire” and “Gemini”; The jaunty grooves of Phillips’ “Celtic Run” is another great tune from an album full of gems, and like the percussion filled “Octopia” from Protocol II, and the drum soloing on “Catalyst” from Protocol III, his latest solo piece “Solitaire” find the master percussionist still at the top of his game.
When it comes to percussion, Phillips’ “monster drum kit” is unlike any other; 2 bass drums, 3 snare drums, 7 tom toms, as many as 8 cymbals, 4 octobans and a gong drum. Needless to say, he makes use of each and every one of them; His melodic phrasing, odd metered sticking, rapid tempo changing and rich textures are joy to behold, for drummers and casual listeners alike. He makes it look effortless and easy at times; Don’t be fooled; it isn’t. Protocol IV is another fine outing by a stellar musician and his band.
Simon Phillips Protocol IV, featuring Greg Howe on guitar,
Ernest Tibbs on bass, and Otmaro Ruiz on keyboards
Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA.
February 8, 2018 @ 8:00pm