Prince Lasha's Inside-Outside Story
AAJ: And you probably learned some things musically from them that you wouldn't have been able to otherwise. Of course, with improvised music incorporating so many different types of music or dialects, it makes perfect sense. People outside of improvised music often view recordings as a commodity, but when you're producing something yourself, it's an art object. Not only the art that's contained in the record, but the piece itself is an art object. When you take it to this strongly therapeutic, spiritual level, it has so many different artistic connotations. But every artist's label is a unique story, and it's interesting to hear how different people came to that conclusion.
PL: Ornette and I were talking about that today; James Jordan used to play baritone and I play baritone, and Ornette played alto. We know those sounds are still in the canopy, and he was talking about playing some trumpet and my playing flute against that. He wants to do the liners for the recording we did in New York [with the saxophone choir]. I thought that was quite remarkable, because he almost never comes out of his studio.
[In New York] I took Odean with me for a little while, and Ornette wrote out some theories. He and James Jordan were sitting right there in front of the bandstand when we played, and the opening evening was awesome. I got tied up with Michael Brecker, and we really did play some music. The second night was with James Carter, and we owned the bandstand with our tuxedo coats below our knees, like Wyatt Earp! Odean had his tux, and we all looked beautiful, ten or twelve of us on stage.
It was just the right time for me to come back to New York, though. I'd been working with "His Holiness for some time; we've been working and writing for over two decades together. I had no idea he was composing a tune called "Prince Lasha, but a different guy would call [Odean Pope] every week to say he wanted to solo on that song. Michael Brecker called one week to say he wanted to solo, then James Carter the next week, and after that, Joe Lovano called, and they all wanted to solo on "Prince Lasha. Odean said he couldn't believe it, because they aren't in touch with each other about these things. Sure enough, we all got tied up on that song and really went out. There was another one, "Coltrane Time, and a love theme that was beautiful.
AAJ: As far as the canvas of music in New York, since you left that second time a lot has changed. A lot of people have come to New York to play, as well as those who have left AACM folks came from Chicago and so forth, and the whole sound of music in New York changed over the 70s and 80s until now. It's probably a completely different climate and a different vibe when you go back.
PL: Well, I was there a bit with Odean in the '80s, so I come prepared I've got my iron suit, you know, because I'm "Iron Man, like Eric Dolphy. I love that dear brother; I wrote that piece called "Impressions of Eric Dolphy while I was in England. What happened when I was just in New York was that each night I signed all these records and CDs, and Odean said "wow, you've got a lot of fans. I'm so happy that I have so many people interested in my music now.
AAJ: Well, obviously this gig at the Blue Note was a high point in your career, but what are some others that stick out in your memory?
PL: Working with Sonny Rollins was an experience; like I said, I was coming out of the woodwork at the time, and we had Ron Carter and [drummer] Roy McCurdy at the Jazz Workshop gigs. He had his Mohawk on and we had our bow ties, you know, and I have photographs of that. Trane sticks out in my mind, working with him in New York and with Rollins at the [Village] Gate, and Trane at the Gate. Also my work with Eric Dolphy, and I did some work with Ornette Coleman and the San Francisco Symphony here two and a half decades ago.
AAJ: How did that come together with the Symphony and Ornette?
PL: It was very good; he had a contract to do a gig with Symphony at the place he always plays here, up over by the hotel on Knob Hill. I also did some work at the conservatory down in San Jose, with the World Peace Orchestra under the guidance of [trumpeter] Eddie Gale, and I was a featured artist. I did some baritone work with the violins and alto with the cello and harp, and all kinds of things at the San Jose State University conservatory. It was very frightening stuff! I was playing baritone on one of my compositions, "Take Time to Feel, and Eddie Gale played a beautiful trumpet solo. Those are some of the things that stick out most in my mind.