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Ptah the El Daoud

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Album Review

Sometimes written off as an also-ran to her more famous husband, Alice Coltrane's work of the late '60s and early '70s shows that she was a strong composer and performer in her own right, with a unique ability to impregnate her music with spirituality and gentleness without losing its edges or depth. Ptah, The El Daoud is a truly great album, and listeners who surrender themselves to it emerge on the other side of its 46 minutes transformed. From the purifying catharsis of the first moments of the title track to the last moments of "Mantra," with its disjointed piano dance and passionate ribbons of tenor cast out into the universe, the album resonates with beauty, clarity, and emotion. Coltrane's piano solo on "Turiya and Ramakrishna" is a lush, melancholy, soothing blues, punctuated only by hushed bells and the sandy whisper of Ben Riley's drums and later exchanged for an equally emotive solo by bassist Ron Carter. "Blue Nile" is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; Coltrane's sweeping flourishes on the harp nestle in perfectly with flute solos by Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson to produce a warm cocoon of sound that is colored by evocations of water, greenness, and birds. Perhaps as strong as the writing here, though, are the performances that Coltrane coaxes from her sidemen, especially the horn players. Joe Henderson, who can always be counted on for technical excellence, gives a performance that is simply on a whole other level from much of his other work — freer, more open, and more fluid here than nearly anywhere else. Pharoah Sanders, who at times with John Coltrane seemed like a magnetic force of entropy, pulling him toward increasing levels of chaos, shows all of the innovation and spiritual energy here that he is known for, with none of the screeching. Overlooked and buried for years in obscurity, this album deserves to be embraced for the gem it is.

Customer Reviews

One of the greatest Jazz albums ever

This album proves that Alice was easily the equal of John Coltrane in terms of playing ability. Although the album is shrouded in hippie mysticism, don't let it put you off. Turya & Ramakrishna is one of the most amazing blues tunes ever submitted to vinyl. Alice's playing is amazing and defies words. She plays the piano like a harp and the rhythm and feel of her playing are just something else. Fans of the Cinematic Orchestra should check out Blue Nile - a major inspiration for them, and arguably, much better. I cannot recommend this album enough.

Buy this album!

I was never too sure about Alice Coltrane .... I thought she was just riding on her husbands name with her music which, from the little that I'd heard, sounded pale in comparison. I thought I'd give her a proper chance and recently I got 'A monastic trio', which (for me anyway) show'd signs of promise, and I bought this based on that - and I don't regret getting this at all! This is a great album, the playing is perfectly sweet and the songs are fantastic. It kind of reminds me of a mix of Coltrane (John) and Pharoah Sanders, with a splash of Sun Ra for luck. Favourite for me has to be Blue Nile which, strangley mentioned previously, my girlfriend instantly thought was cinematic orchestra. I regret not having heard this before, and I can't recommend this album highly enough.


Born: 27 August 1937 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Alice Coltrane was an uncompromising pianist, composer and bandleader, who spent the majority of her life seeking spiritually in both music and her private life. Music ran in Alice Coltrane's family; her older brother was bassist Ernie Farrow, who in the '50s and '60s played in the bands of Barry Harris, Stan Getz, Terry Gibbs, and especially Yusef Lateef. Alice McLeod began studying classical music at the age of seven. She attended Detroit's Cass Technical High School with pianist Hugh Lawson and...
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