Alice Coltrane: Ptah, the El Daoud


Ptah, the El Daoud


Alice Coltrane (piano)


Ptah, the El Daoud (Impulse! 201)

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Alice Coltrane (piano), Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Pharaoh Sanders (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), Ben Riley (drums).

Composed by Alice Coltrane


Recorded: Dix Hills, NY, Jan.26, 1970


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Alice McLeod Coltrane was essentially a bebop pianist who had even studied with Bud Powell in Paris in 1959, but she then became greatly moved and influenced by the music of John Coltrane, which she first heard on record (Africa/Brass) in 1961. She met Coltrane in 1963 at Birdland in New York while the pianist for Terry Gibbs opposite Trane's quartet, married him in 1965, andreplaced McCoy Tyner in his group in 1966. Just before his death the following year, John helped Alice land a recording contract with his label, Impulse!, and her second album, Ptah, the El Daoud, featured the delectable and perhaps only such pairing ever of the highly individual saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson.

The stirring 14-minute long title track is dedicated to the Egyptian god Ptah, "the beloved" (the El Daoud). The somber march-like theme is played by the two tenors, and is elevated by Coltrane's forceful chords, Carter's penetrating bass lines, and Riley's sharply struck drum accents. Henderson employs urgent cries, circular phrases, heated tremolos, and serpentine runs to flesh out his solo. Sanders in turn ranges from meditatively spacy to passionately intense, with dissonant raspy wails and a mindset more in keeping with very late period Trane than was Henderson's, although Sanders' phrasing is as much thematic as it is abstract. The pianist has played reverberating chordal patterns behind both tenor soloists, and her own improvisation is laden with pulsating arpeggios, possesses a rolling momentum, and is similar overall in texture to her spiritual harp and organ playing. Riley's finely sculpted, understated drum solo precedes the theme's fervent restatement.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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