ALICE COLTRANE — Ptah, the El Daoud

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ALICE COLTRANE - Ptah, the El Daoud cover
4.45 | 32 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1970


A1 Ptah, the El Daoud 13:58
A2 Turiya and Ramakrishna 8:19
B1 Blue Nile 6:58
B2 Mantra 16:33

Total Time: 46:03


- Ron Carter / Bass
- Ben Riley / Drums
- Alice Coltrane / Harp, Piano
- Joe Henderson / Saxophone [Tenor], Flute [Alto, Left Channel]
- Pharoah Sanders / Saxophone [Tenor], Flute [Alto], Bells [Right Channel]

About this release

Impulse! – AS-9196

All tracks recorded at the Coltrane home studio in Dix Hills, New York on 26 January 1970

Thanks to snobb, dreadpirateroberts for the updates


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Members reviews

siLLy puPPy
The word avant-garde is simply a term for the “leftovers” of music that don't fit neatly into any category. Given the breadth of experimental possibilities, it is rather meaningless by definition in conveying any prior sense of what to expect before actually hearing a new musical piece. Such is the case for ALICE COLTRANE and her masterpiece PTAH THE EL DAOUD (Ptah is an Egyptian God and El Daoud simply means The Beloved.) This sounds absolutely nothing like many of the other jazz artists lumped into the avant-garde such as Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra etc. Upon first listen it seems to me that Alice simply created something in the jazz world that is similar to what emerged in the rock world that later become known as post-rock, meaning rock instrumentation focused on ambiance and soundscapes rather than preordained musical compositions. ALICE COLTRANE does just that. It is clearly jazz by the sounds of the saxes and flutes, yet it's like the scarab beetle that graces this beautiful album cover. Alice's musical vision is the soft spiritually-infused fleshy part on the inside and the jazz instrumentation is the hard exoskeleton giving it a form. Just like post-rock, this post-jazz has additional instruments not usually heard in jazz. In this case the harp played with full virtuosity by Alice herself. And a super satisfying performance I may add.

This album is just brilliant! It is a return to the modal jazz composition of the previous decade that was quickly being abandoned for a more fusion approach in the jazz world, yet it wasn't just being retrospective. It was also fresh and original taking jazz to new places. At times the piano reminds me more of soul or gospel adding a warmth and a gentleness to the ferociousness of the musical performance that feels like a battle between order and chaos and at times it truly does have a free-jazz feel especially when Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson are competing on the left and right channels with their saxophones. The free form performances of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Ben Riley show that it really is the sum of the parts that make this album come together. None of the individual instruments would sound right without the contrast. The strange thing about this album is that despite feeling like a mystical spiritual journey the music doesn't particularly evoke any feel towards the Ancient Egyptian imagery depicted on the cover art. Doesn't matter a bit though. I find this music satisfying from beginning to end and wishing more albums of the sort had been made like it. However, I guess that would diminish from its uniqueness. 5 stars
Alice Coltrane's musical exploration of mystical concepts from Egyptian mythology might be firmly in the avant-garde camp, but it sounds an awful lot more focused and honed than much of what is usually referred to as free jazz. Alice and her posse of sidemen manage such a dead-on evocation of mood with this one that it's hard to say which parts are structured composition and which parts are free improvisation, since more or less everything the musicians play helps evoke the atmosphere aimed for. The sax-and-flute duo of Henderson and Sanders are a particular treat, especially the way they are arranged in the mix - listen to a stereo version of the album on headphones to get the full effect of their interplay.
Sean Trane
Third album from Alice’s wonderful world of musical marvels (I’m tempted to say Alice’s musical adventures in Wonderland), Ptah is certainly one of her major achievements and probably her least instantly-recognisable work from the 70’s discography. Behind the tremendous Egyptian mythology artwork and title, Ptah is Alice’s most sombre but also more fascinating moment, as she explores the double horn territory (nothing evil here, though) and goes a step further in her Trane-world endeavours.

With the twin-sax attack (Pharoah on the right and Henderson on the left channel), the 14-mins epic title track is the first time Alice returns to horns since the A-side of her debut Monastic Trio, and it is quite an outstanding return. Both Trane‘s “usual suspects” use their twin horns to form a sometimes enthralling but also broody mood It’s quite fascinating comparing the two horn-blowers over Alice’s chords and Carter’s pedestrian bass. Despite its Indian mythology title, the Turiya track (this would become her own Hindu name) is a superb bluesy piano-led piece and doesn’t present any ethnic influences and Carter’s bass is awesome.

On the flipside, with Blue Nile enters Alice’s harp and the two saxes leave the way to two excellent flutes (keeping their respective channels) that give an excellent soundscape-depth to the album and Carter’s bass almost steals the show. The 16-mins+ Mantra track closes the album as the title track had opened it, with the twin horns drawing circles around the whole quintet, but never over-powering anyone, especially Alice’s haunting choppy piano (some would say clunky, but I’d find that insulting for Alice or McCoy) midway though the track. The song seems to slowly fade-out (it does) by its halfway-distance but it slowly climbs back up the ladder with some dual exciting but tense sax interventions.

Well Ptah is quite easily my fave Alice album, quite ahead of Satchi, but both are quite different that it’s actually difficult to pit them against each other. In some ways, I find it a little sad that she didn’t pursue at least one more album in the Ptah mould, but it’s certainly to her credit that she didn’t want top repeat herself. An awesome album, even if rather far away from her usual positivism, but its depth is simply astounding.

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  • MoogHead
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