Today’s Artist Spotlight is both legendary and coming in under the radar. Billed by his project’s name “Protocol”, many people may not be aware that this is Simon Phillips’ band. The drumming maestro powered Toto for two decades, was the drummer on The Who’s 1989 reunion tour and has played with countless rock, prog and jazz musicians since the 70s, including Jeff Beck, Jon Anderson, Zappa, Joe Satriani, Stanley Clarke, Peter Gabriel, Asia, Jack Bruce, Derek Sherinian, the list goes on and on. To say Simon is a legend is an understatement and it is an honor to have him on the ship with us.
In 1988 Simon released a true solo album called “Protocol”. Starting in 2013 he revisited this project’s name by making it a quartet and releasing “Protocol II”. The past decade has seen different personnel changes, with a new lineup being unveiled for 2022’s “Protocol V”. Cruise to the Edge will welcome Simon for the first time as he brings his new quintet on board, featuring veteran keyboard magician Otmaro Ruiz, bassist Ernest Tibbs and two prodigiously gifted young players that Tibbs himself recommended, guitarist Alex Sill and saxophonist Jacob Scesney. “With Ernest, it’s always grooving no matter how tricky the music is,” Phillips says. “That’s so important to me.”
Regarding their new guitarist and saxophonist, Simon reflects, “The great thing about the younger players is they’re fearless, I’ve encountered some who say this music’s just too hard to play — well, I come from a background where I love to be challenged. [Pianist] Hiromi’s The Trio Project, for instance, which I played in with Anthony Jackson, she would push us to be ready to perform things that we barely knew. I loved that. I so admire her tenacity and her courage. Jacob and Alex are like this too: they’re up for it, and it’s good for us older guys onstage to be reminded. We can all get a little bit too comfortable, and music shouldn’t be like that. It should be always on the edge, always ready to grow – but always groove!”
You can check out their new album “V” which promises to be heavily featured in their concerts. This is jazz fusion at its best, friends. Expect to see an audience filled with musicians from the other bands on the ship – this will be one of those kinds of sets where Protocol’s peers and disciples want to see what they have up their sleeves. Check out some video links below including our recent career-retrospective interview with Simon.