So where has Prince Lasha (1929, Ft. Worth, TX) been all these many years? Well, it cynically could be said he was busy making a living and now that he's done that he's getting back into the Jazz scene. Of course the first question is, how are his chops and creative spirit? This is the very question I asked not only of him but also of people with whom he was working or who had heard him recently. To a person they assured me all was well in Lasha-land.
Prince was part of the original cast of new players of the ‘50s. For him, as he said in a June 1981 Cadence Magazine interview, "It all started in Texas..." where he went to school with Ornette Coleman (who, like Prince, was also self-taught), Dewey Redman, Charlie Moffett, and a number of other to-become-well-known Jazzmen who would later help shape improvised music's future direction(s).
Back in the Ft. Worth area he worked with Ornette for about eight years; Ornette played tenor in Prince's band. In the early ‘50s, Prince went to New York City and Ornette went to California where, in the late ‘50s, Ornette made his seminal first recording for Contemporary Records. Later (coincidentally at the same time that Ornette moved to New York), Prince moved to California where he made his first recording (1962)—also for Contemporary Records—and began a long-term andfruitful musical relationship with Sonny Simmons. Soon after, Prince returned to New York where he worked for awhile with Eric Dolphy (who had taken note of Prince's recordings), Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones before moving to Europe, eventually returning to California where he began his own label (Birdseye), on which he released three recordings.
Over the past 30 years I was in very intermittent phone contact with Prince, though the last I heard him was a 1983 recording on the Daagnim label. Communication picked back up this past winter when Prince came east and worked with Odean Pope (1938, Ninety-Six, SC) on one of Odean's projects.
Tyrone Brown (1940, Philadelphia, PA) and Craig McIver (1959, Philadelphia, PA) have been the backbone of Odean's trio and other groupings since around 1990, and, as I have written before, both have strong musical profiles. As for Odean, his thoughtfully sculptured work has been well documented and includes a number of recordings on CIMP where he has paired himself with such formidably distinguished and defined artists as Dave Burrell, Khan Jamal, Byard Lancaster, Carl Grubbs, and now, Prince Lasha.
A few days before the session, Odean toldme, "We had a good rehearsal. I was very impressed." The next day Craig called during a rehearsal and excitedly conveyed, "These guys are amazing. You should hear them."
And hear them I did from early evening into early the next morning, making music which is as much self-defining as it istraditional but always with a distinct left-of-center thrust that I find as disconcerting as it is appealing. I spent a good part of the early evening readjusting my mindset to this idiosyncratic music and its mixture and contrasts of approach, regional dialects, and styles. At one point I suggestedto Prince that it seemed to me he now has a more original or defined style than he had decades earlier. Prince—somewhat confirming—said, "It may be so..."
This was a particularly interesting session to watch as Odean served as musical director, working both his trio and himself and Prince(definitely the wild card). Craig, subtly at times, pushed a tempo or emphasis while Tyrone, always pretty, worked out different runs and counterpoints, mindful as always of the structure. Dig how Tyrone pulls off one of his own sideshows on Prince Lasha, slipping the listener into his world and then handing it over to Craig who was now freer of any structural setups of the composition's original form. It confirms what Odean had said when I mentioned to him that he seemed to enjoy playing into front-line strength: "I'm always with strength when I'm with the trio (Tyrone and Craig)."
So here is Prince Lasha as of the Spring of 2005. Where he'll be musically the next time you hear him may be different but I'd doubt any less interesting. All the music for this date was planned, with the exception of Divine message, a piece that was worked out in the early morning hours and executed after about 40 minutes of structural strategy.
Enjoy the music and the adjustments it might bring.
Robert D. Rusch - April 5, 2005