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Prince Lasha: The Passing of a Sax-Man

Bill Leikam By

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December 12, 2008 saw the unexpected passing of William B. Lashaw better known in jazz circles as Prince Lasha. It sent a shudder of disbelief through the jazz community from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York. His memorial was held in Oakland California at the Mountain View Cemetery, December 20th. The large, flower filled room was packed with standing room only. A beautifully framed photograph of Prince stood before us. His sons John and Anthony spoke to us about their father. It was truly the gathering of an extended family who loved Prince Lasha both as a man and as a musician. Paying their respects were fellow musicians Eddie Gale, John Handy, Calvin Keys, Kash Killion, Valery Mih, Sandy Poindexter and many, many others. They loved Prince's music and a good number of those in attendance had played with him on his recordings and at live events.

Prince was born in September 10, 1929 in Fort Worth Texas. During his illustrious career he worked with Cecil Taylor, his good friend Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy who made one of Prince's tunes "Music Matador" famous, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Simmons, Eddie Gale and Odean Pope to name just a few. In 2006 Prince performed at the Blue Note with Odean Pope. That show featured not only Prince but also Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker, and James Carter. Prince was in the process of releasing his most recent album "Baritone Madness" featuring Woody Shaw, Ron Carter, Odean Pope and Eddie Gale on Birdseye Records. Prince's last recording was on October 19th, 2008 with Eddie Gale on trumpet and spoken word—A Salute to President Elect Barak Obama—Prince on Baritone Sax, Marcus Shelby on bass, Darrell Green on drums, David Boyce on Tenor Sax and Howard Wiley on Tenor Sax. Prince was very proud of this recording and looked forward to its release in February 2009.

Eddie Gale said, "When I visited Prince on Wednesday (two days before his passing) he seemed able to really overcome his condition. We spoke highly about him being ready in April 2009 to go to New York to perform (for a second time) with Odean Pope and the (Odean Pope) Saxophone Choir at the Blue Note Club. I felt good about our conversation and his response to what was going on. Then I received a call from his youngest son John at 1:30 AM Friday morning that he had passed. I was stunned."

After the memorial ceremony, fans, friends and family gathered at the Ethiopian Restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley California. Before long the place was a buzz with people reminiscing about Prince. Eddie Gale had created a DVD with snippets of Prince playing at a variety of live shows. As it played a delicious Ethiopian meal was served. A videographer interviewed people and toward the end, people made public statements, many of them saying how much Prince Lasha will be missed but that his music will continue for years to come.

There will be Prince Lasha performance tributes in the future. An upcoming event is a radio talk show which will be broadcast online on January 10, 2009 at 12:00 noon. The show is the Wanda's Picks show. Visit Wanda Picks and the subject will be the late, great Prince Lasha. People are welcome to call this phone number (347) 237-4016 and join in on the conversation with Eddie Gale and Wanda Sabir, add any comments you may have about Prince Lasha and/or the musicians' health care project.

Since Prince had been helped with serious dental work by the California Jazz Foundation, the family requests that any charitable donations should be directed to the California Jazz Foundation or the Jazz Foundation of America (in memory of Prince Lasha). California Jazz Foundation, 1158 26th St., Suite 273, Santa Monica, Calif., 90403 Attn: Director Sue Townsley Jazz Foundation of America, Jazz Foundation 322 W. 48th St. 6th Floor N.Y., NY 10036. 212-245-3999 x29. Attn: Amy Merrill Associate Director.

Photo Credit

John Rogers


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