Prince Lasha's Inside-Outside Story
Coleman did his record, and he and Don Cherry went up to New York, and I went up to Oakland and I met a guy named Huey Simmons. We started playing and fooling around, and I had brought some music with me from Fort Worth. We started playing, just two altos. I was in the record store one day and heard this alto player, and Simmons was with me, and I said "who is that? He said "that's Eric Dolphy and I said "Eric who? Is that Eric Dolphy in New York? I knew Ornette, my school band mate, was supposed to be the greatest in the world and so I heard this and said, "Simmons, look. You gonna be ready to go in a couple weeks? I was going to New York to meet Eric Dolphy. I had this eight-cylinder Chrysler, overhauled it, and we went down through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and I introduced Simmons to Moffett (I named him Sonny Simmons then, because I didn't want him running around named Huey Simmons. I gave him a real aristocratic namePrince Lasha named Sonny Simmons, okay?), and that's how Simmons came to knowing the Moffett family and Coleman. I didn't want to take "Huey Simmons to New York, because he is my friend and my worthy constituent, so I had to dress him up a little.
Prior to that departure, Miles Davis was appearing at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, and they had a concert in Oakland for the police ball. He had John Coltrane with him, and there was a reviewer named Russell Wilson who gave John bad write-ups all over San Francisco. They were doing this concert and I arrived early, and John's horn wasn't working. Simmons and I were backstage, and I said "give me the horn, man. I worked on it for about twelve or fourteen minutes and I fixed the leaks and all that. Coltrane said "I just got it from the music store down on 47th before I got here. There was something they didn't do to it, and I fixed all the discrepancies on the horn, gave it back to him, and John went out and played so much beautiful music while this little ugly motherfucker with brown suede shoes was looking at me [Miles]. I was looking at him because I'm pretty too, and he was happy that John was playing so much. He was wondering who I was! John and I became lifelong friends after that.
After I left Texas, taking Simmons with me, I went to New York, and the only way into New York was on the New Jersey turnpike. I had Eric [Dolphy]'s phone number with me, so I get out and dial the number, and what do I hear playing over the circuits? The Cry! The first thing he said was "hey man, where are you? I'm listening to you now. I said "yeah, I can hear it in the background. He said "come on over, so I took Simmons with me and went over and met him and he was drinking a lot of honey [Dolphy was a diabetic]. We used to have a lot of sessions over at his loft with Moffett, Clifford Jordan, and Tony Williams (I named him Ninety-Nine. It's always good to give everybody a new name to go along with the old one!). I had to meet Eric because, hearing him play alto, I knew that my band mate Ornette Coleman was "Captain Hornblower and I wanted to find out who the Horn of Plenty is! I got on the phone on the New Jersey Turnpike and heard The Cry!
AAJ: It had to be so wonderful to hear that your reputation had preceded you in New York. They were ready for you.
PL: Yes, that's really strange because the only other time that I heard myself on the telephone was back in LA with Harold Land, and I was driving down from Northern California to meet him. I get down there and he said "I've been getting phone calls late at night. They never say anything, but they just play music. We were sitting there and all of a sudden the phone rings and he said "hey man, this could be them. So he answers the phone and he's listening for a while not saying anything. He hands me the phone and what do I hear? "Nuttin' out Jones and I said "hey man, this is me on clarinet playing with Elvin [Jones]!
AAJ: Was that written for Don Jones?
PL: That was written for Elvin Jones. It was written for him because everybody in the band had to write a tune, and the best tune they were going to put first. They put "Nuttin' Out Jones first. When I met Lee Morgan I was hanging out with Freddie Hubbard and Art Blakey up in Canada, and Lee Morgan said "look, Prince, when I first heard that I thought it was 'Trane on soprano. That's what he told me about my playing clarinet. I said "wow, that's pretty deep because when I got back to New York, I was with Ornette at the delicatessen and he said "I heard you on clarinet [imitates Ornette in gravelly voice, laughing]. I wrote that for Elvin because at that time in New York, people were saying "I didn't get that gig because so-and-so was nutting out on me. Everybody was talking about nutting out.