In the music spotlight: Simon Phillips

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Ernest Tibbs (from left), Simon Phillips, Dennis Hamm and Greg Howe. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Renowned drummer Simon Phillips has walked in many musical realms, and earned esteem in all of them. He has served as studio and stage musician for noted rockers including the Who’s Pete Townshend, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, to name only three. Phillips has worked with A-list jazz artists including Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and Jimmy Kimmel Live keyboardist Jeff Babko. The percussionist and producer also spent 21 years performing and recording pristine pop-rock with Toto following the passing of founder Jeff Porcaro.

Since the release of 1988’s “Protocol” album, Phillips has also led his own projects. Last month, Phillips released the fourth installment of the series. The instrumental music on “Protocol IV” combines the intensity of hard rock and metal with progressive rock precision and the sophistication of jazz.

The players include longtime collaborator Ernest Tibbs on bass, in addition to respected new partners including guitarist Greg Howe and keyboardist Dennis Hamm. Since Phillips wrote the bulk of the material during recent tours and recorded with his current traveling mates, the fire of monster album tracks like “Azorez” provides an energetic jumping-off point for the band’s live shows this week at Reggie’s Rock Club.

Nimbus” features the pull of Howe’s fluid flights of guitar against Phillips’ taut and meticulous timekeeping. The song is punctuated by fierce stabs of Hamm’s organ. The frenetic stop-start precision of “Pentangle” is decorated with Phillips’ furious tom-tom triplets and Hamm’s supple synthesizer soloing. The off-kilter excursions of “Solitaire” are underpinned by the low, growling funk of Tibbs’ nimble bass. World music influences surface in the spirited “Celtic Run” and the Indian motif of “Passage to Agra.”

As committed to other touring and session work as the restless drummer remains, fans of Phillips’ “Protocol” series should not miss the opportunity to see him at the intimate confines of Reggie’s. Arrive early to Friday’s show to see local virtuosos the Goran Ivanovic Trio.

Phillips’ other current projects include a trio with lauded Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara that has been ongoing for six years, with worldwide travel and four albums released in steady succession. The “Protocol II,” “Protocol III” and “Protocol 4” albums and tours have coexisted with the Hiromi Trio Project and additional efforts.

* Simon Phillips, 8 p.m. Dec. 8-9, Reggie’s Rock Club, 2105 S. State, $25 (17+over);

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.

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