Simon Phillips, “Moments of Fortune” from Protocol II (2014): One Track Mind

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Fans of his work with Toto have likely come to Protocol II looking for some sense of what would led Simon Phillips away — what sound he heard in his head that he couldn’t make over a well-regarded, decades-long career as Jeff Porcaro’s successor.

“Moments of Fortune,” from this just-released quartet recording for Phantom Recordings, provides a road map. It starts, actually, with a suitably crunchy introduction, and it sounds something like his old band. But that’s simply a bridge to what comes next for Phillips, and for any Toto fan he’s brought along on his latest fusion journey.

From there, they move into this spacious, inviting atmosphere as guitarist Andy Timmons explores an emotional territory between rock and jazz. Simon Phillips, illustrating his ease with leading from behind, digs in deep with bassist Ernest Tubbs and keyboardist Steve Weingart — establishing a subtle but never slack cadence.

Weingart then moves briefly forward, creating a counterpoint that triggers an entirely new thought from the group, like trickling rain around purposeful traffic. Timmons becomes grittier, hard-eyed, leading to a middle section that features some of Phillips’ most determined work, and this propulsive, prog-influenced turn by Weingart. They move toward a furious crescendo before opening up into an ozone-scented quiet as “Moments of Fortune” concludes.

Simon Phillips, ever the skilled tactician, gently pushes the group as it gathers for this dark and intriguing exit. Over eight intriguing minutes, they’ve already said much about what he hopes to accomplish on his own.

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