Prince Lasha's Inside-Outside Story
AAJ: The thing I always think about, though, is that it's not always a lineit can be kind of circular, because you have an unending sphere of influences and experiences coming into it, informing the improvisation. I think of it as a continuing process.
PL: Well that's great, too, and we've got to give a theory to the non-believers. It's not merely expression, but you have to hear at the starting point. Music occurs at the point when you start hearing, the lingering of music with the experience of love. Love has a long tradition, you know? You have to have that in spiritual music, Love. Music is the very song of the universe itself, the symphony that is. The soul of the universe is united by the concord and we recognize ourselves as united by the likeness of music. Those are some of the highlights of what I'm thinking about at this time.
Playing with the saxophone choir gives me a lot of spiritual insight; I composed a piece titled "The Book of John. [Lasha plays the piece on clarinet] It's a sermon, and you can kind of hear it in the music. I want to do that with the choir, preach from the clarinet. Also, another one Odean was talking about was "John the Gospel, and it's one of my favorites. We try to keep it as simple as possible in order to have those lines to work with as you're creating. The Saxophone Choir is something altogether different; because of the combinations of tones, it builds.
AAJ: When you were working with Dolphy, Simmons and Clifford Jordan, did you have any concept of something like a saxophone choir? It seems to me like something that's not far off from that bandit doesn't take much to conceptualize adding five more cats to the lineup.
PL: I'd been thinking of being in front of a reed section, and I played with a 20-piece orchestra for about four years, and I used to bring Freddie Hubbard to the rehearsals every Monday night. I used to bring Freddie, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Tony Williams people that were off on Monday nights that were working in the Bay Area. The music was like a Concorde ready to take off from a tarmac, and the trombones were right behind me, the trumpets were behind them, and the reeds were behind the trumpets, and it seemed like a jet was taking off! It was just taking off into orbit, and I'd get these spiritual feelings about how heavenly the music sounds. Buddy Rich even got his book from us, and we had some wonderful musicians in the band. I was the only brother in that group; it was all Caucasians and I was the only African-American. Sometimes [when we'd play] I'd wear my African stuff. We did a beautiful recording, too, of "Bird's True Colors. I recorded it in Japan with the 20-piece Sony Orchestra, and that was on flute.
AAJ: I wanted, in talking about spirituality, to know what spiritual experiences you had when you were younger. Did you play in church bands?
PL: I would go and sit with the band and listen to the tambourines and the piano. People were shouting and the floor was moving, and it had that hypnotic rhythm that would go on for a while. I transformed that into an Eastern flavor [based on] that form of rhythm. It was the SF Chronicle that wrote about "Hypnotic Jazz from the Prince. They said it sounded like I was calling people to prayer.
AAJ: If you listen to Appalachian mountain music or traditional Church music from the South, there is sort of a hypnotic droning quality that girds the music from underneath, which is very similar to eastern music. Even if the tonalities aren't quite the same, there is a similarity.
PL: Right, it's all modal and there is a droning quality, continuously there even if we are not conscious of it. It's angelic and mystic.
AAJ: And in jazz, when you're using two bass players or two percussionists, what happens in between those two players is what creates the drone.
PL: It's hidden from view of the consciousness, because music is an element of the human outlook that we are all engaged in.
AAJ: We might be engaged in it more than most of society. But if you take it away, you'll notice its absence. And that goes for anything, even that which is higher than music.
PL: It's processed by the very encounter with the world, its underlying source of meaning. It may be seen as subliminal actions within our ongoing quest for meaningful life. Like I said, it is hidden from view of consciousness. That's the way I hear it.
AAJ: How did you get interested in the eastern elements of spirituality and music?
PL: What happened was that I think I found that line through approaching my flute. I found that through playing on those recordings with Eric Dolphy. I heard that in Eric's music and I transformed that into my thing. After hearing the clarinet, and hearing John, it summed up all of my thoughts. I was very interested in that sound coming from the soprano. Do you know how John found out about playing the soprano?
AAJ: I've heard a few different stories.
PL: What did you hear?