Boomkat Product Review:
Alice Coltrane's third album was originally released in 1970, recorded at home with Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson on horns, Ron Carter on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. Charged, spiritual and struck through with grief, it's a post-bop essential that set the stage for "Journey in Satchidananda".
The first album Alice Coltrane recorded with horns, "Ptah, The El Daoud" was written and recorded during a prolonged period of grief following John Coltrane's death in 1967. Alice had been left with four children to take care of and a vast emptiness in her life, which she filled with the kind of creativity and spirituality that drips from every moment of "Ptah, The El Daoud". The album was dubbed in the basement of Coltrane's house on Long Island, and retains a personal quality that makes it feel lived in; Pharoah Sanders was recorded to the right channel, while Joe Henderson was panned to the left, and the separation is both peculiar and invigorating. Coltrane plays mostly piano throughout, switching to harp on the effervescent 'Blue Nile', a stand-out that foreshadows her levitational work on later albums. Here Sanders and Henderson also switch instruments, playing flute and alto flute respectively.
But for the most part, the music is grounded in the blues-flecked nearly-freeform jazz exploration Coltrane had pioneered with her husband, playing piano as if she was plucking harp strings, and dancing between Ben Riley's thick rhythms. 'Turiya & Ramakrishna' is particularly stunning; liltingly romantic and effortlessly sad, it's a lead piano masterclass from Coltrane, with Riley's drums forming barely a patter, enhanced by unforgettable sleigh bells. If you've managed to miss this one - admittedly it's one of Coltrane's lesser-known records - now's the time to remedy that..