Matt Haviland has been featured as a soloist with some of the top names in jazz, having performed with the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Mingus Big Band, Slide Hampton’s World of Trombones, and Steven Bernstein's MTO. On his debut album Beyond Good And Evil he is composer of all but three of the ten tunes that make up this recording. Haviland showcases not only his playing abilities but his fine compositional skills. His compositions are well crafted, with catchy melody lines, exciting intros, great changes and very tasteful arrangements that are the highlight of Beyond Good And Evil.
The part that is beyond good - catches you on the dramatic introduction for the first track, an apt title for a debut artist, "One Never Knows, Do One?" With stirring dynamics, great changes in tempo, and pauses to knock you off your chair this tune has everything, including some solid trombone playing, followed up by a wild piano ride with Benny Green continuing along the line of "changes are good for your soul." The song builds to a climax of tenor madness as Vincent Herring blows with wicked abandon, and not to be out done, drummer Gene Jackson takes the finale with an intense solo.
The big band experience comes through loud and clear as most of Matt Haviland arrangements sound like they are well suited to a big band and his quintet sounds just like a small big band. "And Away She Goes" burns with that big band intensity, as Haviland and Herring come on boldly and swing madly throughout the entire tune. Benny Green plays it melodic, with Monk-like probing and prodding of chords right up to the piano break and his take-your-breath-away style of playing that shines brightly and pushes the song over the edge of way beyond good.
And that is just my take on the first two tracks. Beyond Good And Evil never looks back. There are moments of tenderness as displayed during "But Beautiful" composed by Burke and Van Heusen. The tune "Little Linnie" is an original that seems to float on a cloud -- another tender performance with heavy hitting trombone played with lyrical precision.
The title track, with its straight ahead classic jazz groove, has it all, big, bold, brassy and "Beyond Good And Evil" sounds -- what an excellent Haviland composition. The "Moonrise Prelude," a solo by bassist Okegwo, is a mellow introduction of pleasing intonation to "Moonrise," another Haviland composition that flows, boils, and cooks with tremendous passion, featuring a very hot trumpet solo by Scott Wendholt.
The album Beyond Good And Evil closes as it starts, with plenty of excitement. The full band and guest Wendholt join forces on "Broome St. Blues," a rousing spiritual dedicated to a club in Manhattan, the city that never sleeps, thanks to the likes of Matt Haviland and his powerful trombone playing.