Encouraged by his father, Trevor Robson, a superb semi- pro clarinettist, Phil rapidly made progress on his instrument, taking a few classes in classical guitar and other one-off lessons, but remaining largely self-taught until he was around 14.
Phil then studied with John Richards, a highly regarded session musician and guitarist who, at the time, was the house guitarist at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. John encouraged a knowledge of many styles and skills – as a result, Phil made immeasurable progress, helped by his discovery of the music of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker & Barney Kessel (whom Richards himself had studied with).
By the time he was 15/16, Phil was regularly playing Sunday lunchtime slots with his father’s band – Sonus ’ – and was beginning to play regularly at Brownes, a local jazz club, memorably duetting with John Etheridge and Dave Cliff and playing a formative gig with Bheki Mseleku.
At the age of 18, Phil moved to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, being the youngest person to ever do the post-graduate jazz course at the time. The course was only for 1 year so, on leaving, he jumped straight into the deep end and became a professional musician.
The first few years of being pro musician in London were difficult, but Phil occupied the guitar chair with NYJO for a time where, significantly, he met long time musical friend and future co-leader of the Partisans, Julian Siegel, as well as others including the now sadly departed drummer Chris Dagley.
Julian and Phil moved into a house in East Ham around 1990 and became associated with the original Vortex Jazz Club in Stoke Newington, where they played with many ex-Loose Tubes musicians such as Julian Arguelles and Steve Buckley.
The Vortex went on to become a seminal part of Phil’s musical life in the 90s – the Partisans could not have been formed without the club’s ‘open’ musical policy – as well as being a factor in beginning his long time partnership with the great singer/songwriter Christine Tobin.
Phil, who was winner of Best Jazz Musician of The Year in the 2009 Parliamentary Jazz Awards, is now internationally regarded as a highly versatile and creative player, comfortable in all kinds of diverse settings, and a renowned bandleader & composer.