Scottish pianist Dave Milligan back with new album – Momento

Rob Adams
Monday, June 29, 2020

A collaboration with Danillo Gallo and U.T. Gandhi, the album is Milligan's first under his own name for 12 years

Dave Milligan
Dave Milligan

Scottish pianist Dave Milligan releases a new album, Momento, on Friday, 28 August. It will be his first album under his own name since he released the enthusiastically received Shops album in 2008.

Milligan, whose arrangements were behind the success of fellow Scot, trumpeter Colin Steele’s BBC Jazz Award-winning album The Journey Home and Steele’s subsequent signing to ACT Records, has been far-from idle in the time between his own releases.

He has made crucial contributions to several Steele projects, including an album of Scottish rock band the Pearlfishers’ music and a new album of Joni Mitchell songs due for release on 18 September. Plus, to the prodigious list of jazz musicians on his CV, which includes Art Farmer, Scott Hamilton, and Charlie Mariano, he has added dates with ace session guitarist Larry Carlton, percussion virtuoso Trilok Gurtu and Nashville gospel-soul legends the McCrary Sisters.

His parallel career in folk music has continued, with a 2018 release from international fiddle band String Sisters, Scottish folk orchestra the Unusual Suspects and on-going projects with harpist and singer Corrina Hewat. He also recently collaborated, as musical supervisor, with former Dire Straits leader, Mark Knopfler, on the stage musical version of Local Hero.

“The abrupt stop in playing live and meeting other musicians that the Covid-19 pandemic brought gave me time to think about my own music for the first time in quite a while,” he says. “I’d been thinking it was 10 years since Shops was released and maybe time to get something out. Then someone pointed out it was actually 12 years and so I thought, I really need to do this.”

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In improvisation, I’ve come to realise that where you start can be more defining than where you’re trying to get to

Dave Milligan

The music on Momento resulted from meeting Italian bass and drums team Danillo Gallo and U.T. Gandhi on an international project with Colin Steele and Enzo Favata at Edinburgh Jazz Festival. 

“There was something about the energy that came from Danilo and Gandhi when we first played together. It connected with a part of my musical vocabulary that, until then I guess, I hadn’t fully engaged with when performing live,” he says. 

Milligan enjoyed playing with the Italians so much that, when a Creative Scotland artists bursary allowed him to travel to Cavalicco in the Italian province of Udine in 2015, he booked three days in ArteSuono recording studio with engineer Stefano Amerio and invited Gallo and Gandhi to join him.

“Before we started playing,” says Milligan, “I told Danillo and U.T. that if we didn’t even record one complete track, that was fine. This was really just an experiment for me. It was about letting go and being in the moment. I adore their playing and knew that their own responses to the material would allow me to just sit in a different space.” 

He continues: "In improvisation, I’ve come to realise that where you start can be more defining than where you’re trying to get to. The sense of expanse and tranquility that we found in the studio – you can hear it in the opening track – that’s exactly what I was looking for, and it comes from that same energy I felt on our first gig in Edinburgh."


Over the three days, the trio recorded everything they played and with the expert recording of Amerio, who has worked on over 40 albums for ECM Records, they finished up with 20 tracks, some completely improvised, some Milligan originals and some improvisations based on folk songs.

“When I listened to the recordings a few weeks ago I was struck by how connected we sounded as a trio,” he says. “I chose seven of the tracks – there's enough material for another album, at least – and I liked the flow. Two of the tracks are based on Scottish folk songs that I took into the studio to try out with the guys. Naturally, the recording doesn’t reveal the words but the sentiment behind the songs feels strangely resonant in today’s world. The others are original compositions, one for solo piano, the others for trio.”


Momento
– the first in a series of new albums – will initially be released digitally, with the option to press physical copies when musicians return to regular gigging. Milligan also hopes to be working with the same team again and returning to ArteSuono at some point.

“As well as having great musicians and an incredible engineer to work with, the landscape in that part of the world is inspiring,” he says “When I arrived in Udine, I stood for a while on the balcony of my room and tried to take in the panoramic horizon that was the Alps. It was a long way away – on so many levels – from the familiar rolling hills of the Borders, where I grew up. But, for a moment at least, it felt like home.”

For more information, please visit: davemilligan.co.uk

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