Warning! LJC hits rock-bottom with an “unlicensed copy” from digital sources. Exceptional circumstances, it’s a Vinyl Emergency.
Selection 1 – the opening: Ptah, The El Daoud (Alice Coltrane)
. . .
Selection 2 – the close: Mantra (Alice Coltrane)
. . .
A1 Ptah, The El Daoud 13:58
A2 Turiya & Ramakrishna 8:19
B1 Blue Nile 6:58
B2 Mantra 16:33
Egyptology Class, ptah attention! Who’s Ptah? The ancient Egyptian god of creation, usually depicted as a man with green skin, holding an ornamented staff, symbolic of sovereignty. El Daoud apparently means “the beloved”. With mysticism, things have to have to be mysterious, it’s part of the attraction.
Joe Henderson, tenor sax, alto flute; Pharoah Sanders, tenor sax, alto flute, bells; Alice Coltrane, piano, harp; Ron Carter, bass; Ben Riley, drums; Chuck Stewart, photographer, occasional bells; produced by Ed Michel, design by The Institute For Better Vision (love that name, but little else of substance ); recorded at The Studio, Coltrane Home, Dix Hills, Long Island, January 26, 1970, engineering credits Wallace Barneke – W.L. Barneke – sound engineer of whom little else is known, also credited on another Alice Coltrane title.
Alice recorded half a dozen titles for Impulse, before moving to Warner Bros, and later concentrated on spiritual guidance matters. Ptah The El Daoud stands out, with I think the best Impulse cover, and remarkably for a spiritual jazz album, made Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time (entry 446)
All Music tribute:
“Alice 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.”
Holy post-Coltrane Impulse spirituality! Alice Coltrane is new to my turntable, and I admit being put off by the harp and other-worldly mysticism, but having taken the plunge, I have no reservations, this album is fabulous, perhaps recent encounters with Pharoah Sanders have tempered my sensibilities. The opening march of Ptah is terrific, and it envelopes you as it unwinds. It is musically a very powerful performance, on a whole new wavelength.
Initially perhaps in the shadow of John, Alice became drawn to Eastern Mysticism, hanging out with the Swamis at the Ashrams, adopting the name Turiyasangitananda, which mystifies me. Why would you change your name to something that is even harder to spell than onomatopoeia, the spelling-bee tie-breaker. The Woodstock generation chanting “Om” to change the world, in search of enlightenment, bliss, harmony, and peace, music as the healing force. Not a bad agenda.
Alice was a frequent collaborator with Pharoah Sanders, sharing a similar transcendental outlook. The second issue of Ptah, The El Daoud added a cover sticker to remind buyers that Pharoah Sanders was a feature of the album, plus in smaller font, “and Joe Henderson”, like an afterthought. It was the presence of Joe Henderson that caught my attention, a surprise name in this setting , although Henderson recorded again with Alice in 1974 on his super-rare Milestone title Elements (generously subtitled “featuring Alice Coltrane”)
Henderson’s voice, hard tone and stock-phrases, are immediately recognisable, post-bop continuity, contrasting tenor style to Pharoah, who is in his element, delivering his saxophone spiritual exorcism on cue. Ron Carter’s firm hand is on bass. Alice’s harp, and occasionally piano, is set in a powerful two-tenor combination overall, and a very accessible combination of worldly and other-worldly music. After sampling a few You-tubes I felt I could get into this album, began looking for a decent original vinyl copy.
Oh dear. I couldn’t find anything enticing. – this is super rare. What I could find easily enough on vinyl was a grey ” unofficial issue”- an unlicensed copy. Nothing much to lose by giving it a try, around $20, I took the plunge.
Vinyl: VINO – vinyl in name only
Anonymous manufacture, digital transfer to vinyl, cheap cover.
There is a sad history to this recording. Released originally by Impulse in 1970, (black/red rim label, single logo-box, no ® ), reissues follow the descending quality Impulse label changes through to 1974, and then disappeared, without any further vinyl release. Even the secondary Impulse reissues are now rarely seen.
The only vinyl copy of this recording since the 1974 Impulse green bullseye label is this grey “unofficial release” which has been around since 2015. Discogs has an entry but does not allow selling of unofficial releases, though sold openly in vinyl outlets.
What does it sound like?
Discogs reviews bear repeating, though sincerely-intended comments like “sounds really great”, “sounds amazing” come with a health warning.
Discogs members reviews
History of the Original Ptah Recording
Coltrane’s early Impulse years were Van Gelder recordings, but Impulse and Van Gelder seemingly parted company in1968, following Bob Thiele’s replacement by Ed Michel. Coltrane’s Dix Hills basement studio was a frequent venue for Coltrane recordings over several years. How it operated has never been documented (not that I have seen) but a New York sound engineer, Wallace Barneke, is credited with this recording, presumably hired for the session. Whether he was also the mastering engineer, unknown.