Prince Lasha's Inside-Outside Story
When I took Woody Shaw with me on some gigs in Eastern Europe back in '88, we played quite a bit with baritone, alto and trumpet, and I had my son on drums, and it was just beautiful. Woody called me "Uncle Prince all the time, and he thought we should go back to New York with this [band] and see if it went over. Woody had his first gigs with me and Eric [Woody Shaw appears on both Iron Man and Conversations]. I have a CD of this band that I'm going to release as Last Train to Yugoslavia. I played a lot of my own tunes, some standards that Woody called, and "Oriental Flower by McCoy Tyner [originally recorded on Illumination!]. We played "Gypsy and "Stardust and just some beautiful music! I was listening back to it, and I thought "is this me or is this Miles and Bird? I was listening to it over and over, it sounds so incredible, and it took me way back in time. It's kind of mystic, because he played his first gig with me, and he passed away when we came back from this tour. But the concert was videotaped as well, and I also videotaped the gig with Odean and I where I got the standing ovation at Yoshi's. It seems like any time Odean and I get together, something mystical and magical happens!
Most people haven't heard my baritone, which is one of my major instruments. I wrote this composition called "Henry Selmer Suite, for me and Carl J.C. Garrett the tenor man, and Chris Amberger on bass (he lives across the street from me, and I taught him and Charnett Moffett how to use the instrument like a big rubber band). My son Eddie Charles Lasha is a bassist too, and he played a bit with Sun Rahe lives in Fort Worth, Texas now.
AAJ: It seems, though, that you've also involved yourself in a number of situations that bring in European classical elements. How did you get interested in exploring those forms?
PL: I heard "If I Should Lose You and things with Charlie Parker and strings and the harp, and I went to Great Britain and did Insight with the harp.
AAJ: So that was the impetus for organizing that band?
PL: Yeah, right, that led me right into it. Now I've been thinking, and the reed section is always on my mind, all of a sudden I'm standing in front of a rhythm section with nine saxophones, and all of these giants are coming out each evening. That's why I wore my Wyatt Earp suit!
AAJ: It sounds like this gig with Odean has really spurred you on in many ways.
PL: Yes, it definitely has. I have a duo called the World Duo with Sam Rivers; he's playing piano and I play soprano, and it's dedicated to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. It's in the vaults, but I think I'm going to call it Wall of Sound. We had never played before, but if you listen to it, it sounds like we have played together many times.
AAJ: Well, you'd probably left New York before Rivers got there, because he was teaching down in Boston. It would be interesting to hear him play piano, because he doesn't do it often.
PL: I composed about three tunes while we were playing, as well as "Just Friends and standards like that. If I ever thought it was beautiful music for two people to play, this is it, because we were into zones of music that were uncontrollable, then we'd come out of it and go into this beautiful ballad, you know?
AAJ: You would have obviously picked up something from watching Eric and Richard Davis play those beautiful duets at the Douglas sessions, too. You can make so much music with so few instruments.
PL: I like to get a disciplined and powerful sound out of soprano and all my instruments, and I learned that from standing next to John [Coltrane]. Playing on the bandstand at the Gate and different places with him, it was really a learning experience for me.
AAJ: Well, the spiritual weight of his sound must have had a very great effect on you.
PL: That's why I try to play the soprano different from him and anybody else in the world, and I try to play it with that type of approach. That's what I heard standing next to this gentleman and it's still in me. I'm going to play "Take Time to Feel in Philadelphia at the Trane Stop and dedicate it to John.
AAJ: And he was always experimenting with different sonorities, investigating flute and bass clarinet later on.
PL: Yeah, and he wanted me to teach him flute. He was talking to me about that at the Jazz Workshop; he'd fired Billy Higgins and had Roy Haynes come out, and he was late, so... the thing that really turned me on was later on when he called me from New York, talking about opening up a club, and he wanted me to open the club!
In improvisation, you have a starting line, and it seems very easy when you're going to start and improvise, but you have to have a lot of materials that you can capture mentally and work with that. You have to be able to have the energy to finish at the finish line.