The second record by Josh Roseman's Unit is constructed, piece by piece, from a massive collection of parts. The 23 players who participate in the extravaganza are for the most part well-recognized, accomplished musicians, which makes the disc all the more rich in anticipation. But oddly enough, solo space per se is generally contained, metered out in order to create just enough drama to render the music exciting.
Roseman's production was planned in meticulous detail during the trombonist's very busy schedule as sideman to the stars, including Dave Holland and Dave Douglas. His work in a variety of contexts has marked him as a talented team player and improviser, and so it's fitting that he would emerge as a committed composer in his own right.
Consider Treats for the Nightwalker a successor to the big band tradition, picking up pieces from '60s avant experimentation, '70s funk, '80s fusion, '90s MBASE logic, and '00s urban grooves. Rhythmically the music obeys the backbeat, whether in a funky or retro-synth fashion. The most effective playing in this department comes from the sticks of band mate Billy Kilson.
Harmonically, these pieces are constructed as a series of units strung together, chord changes very clearly delineated by the abundance of musicians. But there are moments when things open up (as on the gentle, drone-like "Prospect") or constrict (as on the crowded MBASE jam of "Meera"). Except for the first and last pieces, each of these tunes features eight to fifteen players, which means that soloists stand on a thick platform. The passionate and personal voices of Myron Walden, Peter Apfelbaum, and Jay Rodrigues stand out alongside the leader's.
Roseman's record represents a statement of the state of the art, and it deserves lots of credit for taking risks with composition, performance, and production. But in the end the very ambition of Treats renders it so top-heavy that it falters in postmodern complexity. By no means an easy listen, the record rewards attention with detailbut it sacrifices clarity along the way. Perhaps listeners more attuned to crowded arrangements and the blocky progressions of '80s fusion will find satisfaction in this disc, but to these ears it falls short.
Do not dismiss Josh Roseman, whatever your opinion of this record. He will most definitely make an indelible mark on 21st century jazz. Just give him time.