Prince Lasha's Inside-Outside Story
PL: It was somewhere around '65 to '67. I used some of the Queen's Royal Orchestra for that record. I had a friend named John Hammond at CBS, and he always liked my playing and John Handy's playing. He said "I'm going to set you up a date for CBS in Great Britain [which resulted in Insight, CBS UK, 1966]. I went over with a friend of mine, the bassist John Hartt, and I lived in Kensington for about a year on Russell Road, and Yusef Lateef used to come over and he wrote some of the parts for the harp. I lived with a millionaire who went on the road with Philly Joe Jones and later lost his life. John was a great bassist and sat up all night playing like Bud Powell on the bass. He had drums and everything, and I used to have Yusef come over because he was playing Ronnie Scott's club at the time. I played a concert in Cambridge, one in Brighton and recorded there. I was living with Hartt and we rode around in Bentleys; they didn't have minks, but chinchillas for their ladies! We were staying at a mansion and built a big bonfire at night. The mansion had so much land to it, a great big place, and we had a baby grand piano inside so we'd play throughout the night. We built a big bonfire and smoked a lot of hashish, did whatever we wanted. Having an invitation to come to this place, I took Moffett with me and Chris Bateson, and we'd do gigs at night. I think the family that owned it was out of the country; John was a relative of the owners. We could do what we wanted, but we had to have discipline. We weren't close to anyone, and the music has always been very well-mannered; it's not like rock, you don't hear this next door. We did music inside at this mansion with three or four floors, ten or twelve baths, just all kinds of beautiful areas.
AAJ: When you put that band together for Insight, did that band work at all, or was it just for the record date?
PL: It was for the record date; Stan [Tracey] was working Ronnie Scott's as was Yusef, and the other cats were working clubs too. I just went over there for CBS because John Hammond got that together. Joe Oliver was the drummer, and he was the only other brother in the band. He was in New York at some point, I think.
AAJ: Coming from New York to that environment must have been something else.
PL: Yeah, because most millionaires live in Kensington. You look at the house and you can see who built it in what year, and we don't do it that way here.
AAJ: Right, we just want things to be thrown away and they're not connected to any history.
PL: Right, but they keep up with everything in the European countries. They keep up with the music, and they know.
AAJ: How do you feel your music was received differently on the other side of the pond? From what I see, you had great reception and great luck here, and apart from your stay in England, what were some of your experiences with both audiences and musicians you played with?
PL: In the early years I went to France and then down to Holland, and I got a great reception there. I played the Thelonious Monk club that was down in Rotterdam and I played a concert with Woody Shaw. We played Paris at the New Morning Club, and then went on and played other areas. I went to Nancy, France with a unit with my son [the "other" Prince Lasha] on drums and a Dutch pianist whose name I can't remember.
AAJ: Misha Mengelberg?
PL: No, but I'll think of it. We played the Magnetic Terrace (that's where everybody, and I mean everybody, played in Paris) and in Nancy. Ornette was in Nancy as well, and that turned out to be very successful and I'm going to release it in the near future.
AAJ: What about the local musicians? Did you have much chance to play with French musicians or Dutch musicians?
PL: I did a gig at a place in Holland where a lot of cats went, the BIMHuis [Amsterdam], and I had Wilbur Little on bass, Clarence Becton on drums, Carl Boehle on piano, and this was the group I recorded there, so I have a master of that too.
Niko Bunink is the person I was trying to think of, and my son was on drums and that was at the Nancy Jazz Pulsations. This was a wonderful set, and my group went on second and we won the five star prize. My group followed Oliver Lake's group, and I'm going to release that as Wall of Sound. I think it's one of my best. Ornette and I were together there, so it was happening.
AAJ: How did this tenure in Europe compare to when you were in the UK during the '60s? How did the different countries compare, both in reception and playing situations? I suppose things are probably a bit better organized now than they were then, but was there much comparison?
PL: I cut that record there in 1966, and I'll quote the liner notes [by Les Tomkins]: