All world drummer Simon Phillips returns as a bandleader/solo artist following up his 1995 release “Symbiosis”. Phillips, one of the planet’s most versatile and explosive drummers shows his inventive and keen composing skills on “Another Lifetime” along with the estimable bassist Anthony Jackson and long time associate, guitarist Ray Russell.
Simon Phillips can do it all. Phillips has recorded on two Buddy Rich Big Band tributes, showcasing his ability to read complex charts and swing with passion or supporting the likes of “The Who”, Peter Gabriel, Gil Evans and many others too numerous to cite here. On “Another Lifetime”, Phillips expands his working unit with the additions of guitarist Andy Timmons, saxophonist Wendell Brooks, percussionist Peter Michael Escovedo and keyboardist Jeff Babko. The proceedings get off to a heated start with the Phillips/Russell composition “Jungleyes”. Here, the blistering crunch chords from the twin guitarists provide the ammunition for Phillips’ commanding presence yet the composition takes on a new light when the guitarists emulate a mini-brass section with soaring and melodic unison lines. Throughout, Phillips and co. tread waters that bound Prog-Rock, Fusion and Jazz which makes it fairly evident that Phillips is a well-schooled and diverse technician/composer. On Phillips’ “Freudian Slip” saxophonist Wendell Brooks along with the dynamic guitar work of Russell and Timmons craft enticing upper register thematic statements as Phillips’ sturdy and pronounced backbeat guides the tune on a whirlwind course. As in the past, Phillips reaps many rewards performing with the brilliant Anthony Jackson. Jackson is arguably one of the world’s finest bassists. Jackson plays yet constantly explores his instrument while providing one of the most distinctive “bottoms” in the business. Jackson’s approach is muscular, slick and extremely “musical” while rarely, if ever conveying an obtrusive presence. Percussionist Escovedo and keyboard ace Jeff Babko provide the complimentary accents yet also maintain a hearty presence while rounding out the colossal and fiery band sound. Phillips’ “Kumi Na Moja” is a straight-ahead burner featuring some appealing and crafty time signatures that should keep the listener on the edge of his or her seat. Engaging motifs, dynamic chord progressions, captivating solo work, supplemented by swift double bass drums and thunderous tom-tom maneuvers from the master. “Kumi Na Moja” is a tour-de-force. Things let up a bit on the Phillips/Russell composition “Mountain High”. This piece serves as a good vehicle for saxophonist Wendell Brooks. “Mountain High” is an innocent yet moody tune which hints at Adult Contemporary or New Age but features some charming and airy phrasing by Brooks’ clean soprano work. Phillips and Russell’s “Euphrates” features Phillips’ performing polyrhythmic patterns across his toms while Anthony Jackson thumps his bass in linear fashion as he constructs engaging patterns and difficult octaves which at times mimic the semblance of two bassist’s. The closer, Phillips and Russell’s “Another Lifetime” is a highly charged Jazz induced scorcher where everyone gets a chance to extend their wares. This track could also serve as an appropriate finale for the “live” show.
“Another Lifetime” may in fact be Simon Phillips’ finest solo release to date. Other than the extraordinary soloing and interplay among the band, Phillips and Ray Russell get high marks for strong compositional development which should meet or exceed the expectations of most Simon Phillips fans. “Another Lifetime” makes for compelling listening and should satisfy the appetites of those who have been anticipating this release. Highly Recommended!
Simon Phillips; Drums: Ray Russell; Guitars: Anthony Jackson; Bass: Jeff Babko; Keyboards: Wendell Brooks; Saxes: Peter Michael Escovedo; Percussion