The mysterious William B. Lawsha – a.k.a. Prince Lasha – was a free-jazz player whose reputation among fellow musicians far exceeded his popular fame. He played the flute, clarinet, alto sax and baritone sax.
Prince Lasha passed away on December 12 in Oakland. His funeral was today.
A teenage friend of Ornette Coleman’s in Fort Worth, Texas, Lasha started out on alto. He befriended Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane early in his career. Lasha would record with Eric Dolphy and, perhaps most notably, with Coltrane’s rhythm section on the 1963 LP “Illumination!”
Click here to hear “Nuttin’ Out Jones” (a Lasha composition) from that session. Lasha blows fire from his clarinet.
Prince Lasha only made a handful of albums as a leader. The easiest one to find for downloading is “Inside Story,” a 1965 recording featuring Herbie Hancock in his youthful prime. Click here to hear “Kwadwo Safari.” Lasha starts on flute before switching to sax.
(Amazingly, CBS Records wouldn’t release “Inside Story” when it was made. The German label Enja put it out in the ’70s.)
The virtual disappearance of Prince Lasha has been a longtime riddle for jazz fans. Seems he spent the ’80s and ’90s as a real estate agent.
Saxophonist Odean Pope collaborated with Lasha on a 2005 disc called “The Mystery of Prince Lasha.” Even before that, Pope had composed a tribute to him. Click here to hear Pope’s 1999 track “Prince La Sha.”
To read a long and interesting biographical interview with Prince Lasha from 2005, follow this link to AllAboutJazz.com.