Although rather difficult to track down now, The Unprecedented Music of Ornette Coleman was actually a generously distributed bootleg in the 1980s, seeing at least three separate pressings in that decade alone. The disc documents a 1968 performance of the Coleman Quartet in Milan, Italy, and features the interesting lineup of Coleman on alto sax, trumpet, and shanai, Ed Blackwell on drums, and the bass duo of David Izenzon and Charlie Haden. As can be expected, the quartet plays with great care and collective understanding throughout. Opening the date is a touching version of "Lonely Woman" performed in the style, perhaps, of his 1965 trio featuring Izenzon and Charles Moffett. This time, though, Blackwell's polyrhythms and the added bass of Haden fill in the wide open space afforded by the trio setting heard on such dates as At the Golden Circle. At first, one may get the impression that Izenzon and Haden are battling each other to be heard, but as the disc rolls on it is clear that the two are indeed partners striving toward a common end. Coleman enthusiasts will definitely be interested in the album's closer, the shanai workout "Buddah Blues," during which he displays a tenacity seldom heard even in his discography. The post-Bird, bluesy R&B shouts listeners commonly associate with him are abandoned almost entirely here in favor of a blistering splatter of upper-register runs and Eastern modes, a style resembling Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) as much as anyone else. As a result, "Buddah Blues" takes the date into a direction more akin to ESP or BYG/Actuel sessions than that typically expected of Coleman. Worth hunting for.
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AllMusic Review by Brandon Burke