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

Fans of his work with Toto have likely come to Protocol II looking for some sense of what would lead 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 — sounding 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 this new fusion journey.

From there, they move into this spacious, inviting atmosphere as guitarist Andy Timmons explores an emotional territory between rock and jazz. Phillips, illustrating his ease with leading from behind, digs in deep with bassist Ernest Tubbs and keyboardist Steve Weingart — creating 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.

Phillips, ever the skilled tactician, gently pushes the group as it gathers for this dark and intriguing exit — having, over eight intriguing minutes, said much about what he hopes to accomplish on his own.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.