Prince Lasha's Inside-Outside Story
PL: My answer is this: we are guided by the unseen angelic force of the creator, and we're guided by our mental consciousness. There are special people that have this attribute; Nat King Cole was one, Trane was another. That's the way I define improvisation. There are certain DNAs that can deal with this thing, because this is what the Creator had set aside, and nothing would keep peace under the canopy any more than music. From what I understand, the only way that mankind would get together and grow groceries to feed the world would be if he was attacked by an extraterrestrial force.
AAJ: We have to have something completely foreign to our sensibilities before we'll come together.
PL: Right, so there's no way that we could have the high talk of our Creator, who we are created in the image of, because I would say that he has a name for every grain of sand. We are created in a manner that, when we are perfected, we would know the name of every man on earth. This is very deep, and that's the way the music takes me. We are created not to die, but to live for an infinity. Just look at the creation, man!
AAJ: It's so complex, but so simple too.
PL: So simple too, that's right. He loves us. The angelic force of the covering cherub challenged the Creator. That's why we're in this state; I don't think it'll be long, but I'm keeping on the watch now, and I'm looking forward to seeing Trane and all these other brothers in their youth, living for an infinity, including you. This is the way I'm thinking about music, and I hope it makes sense. That's why I write from the Canon, and why I love speaking with people like Yusef [Lateef], because I taught world music for Yusef in New York in the '60s, and he lived with me in Great Britain. He wrote some of the music for my harpist, you know.
I got an invitation from the Trane Stop in Philadelphia, and every year they have had an annual recognition for John Coltrane, so they invited me to do it. They said the Trane Stop will be securing the date of September 22 every year as the official day to recognize the John William Coltrane jubilee.
AAJ: When did they start doing this?
PL: It was right at the end of the '90s as a presentation of the promotion of America's treasure, African-American Classical Music. I've also been doing the Eric Dolphy tribute gig at Yoshi's every year. Mingus said "Eric Dolphy was a saint in every way, not just his music. Buddy Collette said "Mingus was so distraught, he tried to jump down in the hole off the pulpit, and we had to pull him out of there. "If they killed Eric, I don't want to live. So he just jumped down and you wouldn't believe it. What I talked about was the story of hearing my recording on his turntable, you know. Eric's comment was this: "at home in California, I used to play and the birds would whistle with me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds. To me, jazz is like a part of living, like walking down the street and reacting to what you see and hear. Whatever I react to, I can say immediately in my music. This human thing has to do with trying to get as much human warmth and feeling into my music as I can. I want to say more in music than I can in ordinary human speech.
AAJ: That phrase "jazz life, and the title of that book As Serious as Your Life [Valerie Wilmer, 1980, Serpent's Tail Press], it really is music and experience.
PL: I'll tell you a story. I've never played when people are standing up and clapping, but I have this on video [at Eddie Moore's Berkeley Jazz Festival, 1997]. Odean told me why he wrote what he wrote; we've both got standing ovations [before], but not while we were playing together! Another thing happened in Austria; I had Woody Shaw and all those cats with me, and we started playing "Music Matador, the people started clapping and I almost dropped my horn, I hadn't said a word we just started playing and I couldn't believe it. I haven't even gotten over it today; these are some of the things that happened to me.
I just finished rehearsing with the singer Liz Dolphin and Rudy Mongose (he's the pianist and arranger for what we're doing), and I'm working with a tenor man that I met through Eddie Gale and the Peace Orchestra down in San Jose. Carl J. C. Garrett is playing so much tenor, like Trane and Odean Pope, because they all sleep with their horns I sleep with four or five because I can't let 'em get away. He's got a new album called New Standards at Nouveau.
AAJ: I'd like to discuss what happened in the recording industry, stories both good and bad, that led you to form Birdseye.