Ernest Tibbs is an American bass player. He toured with Allan in later years, but does not appear on any officially released recording of Allan's.
I caught up with Holdsworth following a gig with this current trio (Joel Taylor on drums, Ernest Tibbs on six-string bass) at B.B. King's Bar & Grill in Manhattan. The interview took place on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon in July on a grassy knoll in Central Park.
Bill: It was great hearing you play older things like ‘Funnels' and ‘Protocosmos' last night at B.B. King's. It reminded me of seeing Wayne Shorter in concert recently playing his older compositions like ‘Footprints' and ‘Masqualero.' These tunes are your standards, part of your legacy.
Allan: Yeah, well, that's because I haven't written much lately. I had a dry spell for the last five years. But I think it's OK to play a couple of old tunes.
Bill: It certainly is for the audience.
Allan: And also, the different musicians interpret them all very differently. So when you play the same tune with new guys, it's always new in a way and I really like that. I did some gigs with Jimmy (Johnson) and Chad (Wackerman) recently and we played some of the same pieces of music that you heard last night, and it was so different.
Bill: This particular rhythm section of Joel Taylor and Ernest Tibbs seems more interactive than others you've played with. Joel in particular has a real loose swing feel that seems to open the music up a bit more than usual.
Allan: Yeah, I really like playing with Joel. I started liking that approach more open approach after working with (bassist) Dave Carpenter and (drummer) Gary Novak. And then I carried on working with Dave and Joel, which was great too. And when I found Ernest, I was lucky. We needed a bass player for a few gigs and Dave Carpenter wasn't available, and it was like the last minute deal. Gary Willis was in town so he ended up doing two of the three gigs and then Ernest came in and did the last one. He got the music from Joel, came to the gig and played really great, and we've been working together since then. I love working with Joel and Ernest. The vibe that they give as a rhythm section is totally different from other rhythm sections that I've played with. Like you say, it's loose. And I like that. What they do together as a rhythm section also really affects what I play as a soloist, which is cool.
AL: You are working on a new record. Your last studio album was the magnificent Sixteen Men of Tain. Is your new album going to be conceptual in nature ?
AH: It's essentially a trio record featuring Joel Taylor and Ernest Tibbs. The working title is Snakes and Ladders. I'm working on recording it at present. No, there's no particular concept as such. I would say its closer in terms of the music to 16 Men than Hard Hat Area. Beyond that, when it's done I guess you can tell me.
Allan was playing De Boerderij in Zoetermeer with Ernest Tibbs and Joel Taylor. Sony scheduled an interview for me that I was happy to do, but since Allan was late from playing Belgium the night before, the interview got cancelled that same afternoon. I went to the gig with drummer Bas Cornelissen. Surely we found Allan at the bar, we talked a bit and being the English gentleman he is, he suggested to have our conversation anyway, during the break of the gig. Bassie asked some questions here and there too.
How do you prepare for a tour like this?
‘We did a few gigs before. You know, play with Ernest and Joel. And we did a couple of gigs in L.A. before we came on. On this trip. We had about a week or so off before we actually left.
Just gigs or did you also do rehearsals somewhere?
No. These guys don't need to rehearse.
Yeah, it's jazz...!
(Laughs) I'm the one who needs to rehearse, these guys don't need to rehearse!
Your playing with a new bassplayer tonight, Ernest Tibbs. How did you meet him?
Through Joel (Taylor-RH) Because there was something that happened with Dave and...Joel suggested Ernest. And so I hooked with Ernest and we did a gig in San Diëgo. Sounded great to me, so..we kept going.
I heard that you were gonna do an album with Chad Wackerman?
Yeah. We did a live album in Japan last year. But that was all. And I haven't got anything else lined up with Chad. At the moment. So we're gonna do something when we get back. With Joel and Ernest.
It's a cool rhythm section. They sound tight.
Yeah, I'm enjoying it. I love playing with these guys.It's great. I have a lot of fun. They push me.
The first new CD is Snakes and Ladders, coming out on Steve Vai's Favored Nations label. What can you tell me about it?
I signed a deal with Steve around the time I got divorced and he never got his album. He's been unbelievably patient. The reason he hasn't bugged me is because he's a musician and understands that things can go wrong. Usually, a business-oriented record company guy would be beating down my door by this point.
Snakes and Ladders is an interesting record because it has two sets of people on it. Part of the album has Jimmy Johnson on bass and Gary Husband on drums. It also features another rhythm section I was touring with comprised of Ernest Tibbs on bass and Joel Taylor on drums. People have always asked me how different personnel change the music, and Snakes and Ladders really depicts that. There's one tune that appears in two different versions on the album, played by each set of players. It sounds completely different because of the way they interpret it. With Jimmy and Gary, the music is a bit more high energy and rock-oriented, and with Ernest and Joe, it's a little softer and goes into Sixteen Men of Tain territory. The record that comes after Snakes and Ladders will be another trio record, with Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Johnson, who I'm currently touring with.
Tell us about your two upcoming recordings.
I'd started a project with Gary Husband and Jimmy Johnson about five years ago that was supposed to be released on Gnarly Geezer before the label folded. I've got all the recordings from that session, along with additional tracks recorded with drummer Joel Taylor and bassist Ernest Tibbs a couple of years later, and the first album will feature a mixture of those four musicians. One interesting thing about the project is that one of the songs was recorded by both groups, and the versions turned out so differently that I want to include them both just to show how the musicians can radically change the music. I don't tell anyone what to play specifically. I just show them the compositions, and their interpretations are completely up to them. I think that's why some of the guys like to play with me. The second album will mostly be with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman, and I'll release it myself, possibly also this year.