Dave Milligan at the City Arts Centre, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Jazz Festival, 23 July 2016

This afternoon’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival pick was an adventure into the work of a musician I knew nothing about. I was encouraged when I mentioned on Twitter to a jazz musician that I was going and they replied that Dave Milligan is amazing. The crowd was large as we ascended to the City Arts Centre fifth floor by lift and stairs to hear some music.  Dave Milligan played piano for approximately an hour.  He started off with a very quiet, emotional tune Going Nowhere (Parts One and Two).  It was well received by the audience and drew us into the space and Milligan’s music. The second number Did It opened with Pink Pantheresque type chords and took us on a dark and heavy journey as it progressed (nicely complemented by wailing emergency vehicle sirens from outside). Milligan travelled up and down the keyboard on this track before moving onto an improvised piece.  This unnamed number had space and peace, it was hymnic with classical overtones. Dave then said hello and told us he had planned not to speak but changed his mind as it seemed rude not to. Next we heard The Wanderer.  It was lively and reminded me of a toddler finding their feet, sometimes sure and solid, other times light and delicate. There was a playful motif that recurred through the tune as it gathered confidence.

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The fifth tune had hints of pibroch and bagpipes to it and blossomed slowly as a sunrise does on a misty morning. Dave had his back to the audience on the diagonal so I couldn’t see his face while he was playing but this certainly was an emotional tune for me to listen to and I saw a couple of others in the audience rub imaginary specks of dust out of their eyes. Another improvised piece followed where Milligan showed us the lightest of touches on the keyboard contrasted with some heavier ones and he ended with his hands in the piano playing the strings which sounded amazing. He had already succeeded in convincing me the piano could sound like bagpipes and now it sounded  like a string quartet.  The humorously titled If You Need a Paining in an Emergency was next. Milligan recorded this with his trio at An Tobar on Mull and it was released on CD in 2009.  This was a sweeping tune which showcased many influences and at certain moments put me in mind of a breeze coming in through an open window and catching on a curtain. It floated. Tune number eight was There is Always Tomorrow and the concert finished with his version of Hamish Henderson’s Freedom come All Ye which was met with joy and a few whoops by the audience. Played along with a tune he wrote for his father Happy Dapper Day it was a truly hopeful and positive ending to this concert.

You can learn more about Dave here

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