David Milligan Trio,
Late Show
(Caber, 2003)

Late Show is an immensely rewarding album by Scottish jazz composer and pianist David Milligan -- he's producing work of real note these days. Tom Lyne accompanies him on bass, and Tom Bancroft on drums and bodhran -- both are excellent accompanists. All three have finely honed "listening" skills; the resulting recording makes for very pleasurable listening.

Milligan seems to have developed a unique crossover style of playing and can be heard on many contemporary and innovative Scottish and traditional recordings -- you can hear his exceptional contributions on his collaborations with Corrina Hewat, Bachue, Simon Thoumire, Catriona MacDonald, Carol Kidd and many more. He's also headlined Scotland's Celtic Connections Festival for two years running with his ambitious crossover co-commission titled The Unusual Suspects, which has been received with great acclaim.

This album sees Milligan firmly back in jazz territory (he trained at Leeds College of Music, renowned for its jazz courses) and his compositions are sure-footed and imaginative throughout, from the clean, lyrical lines of "Early Arrival' through to the multi-paced improvisation of the album's drum and bass-laden closing number, "Small World." There's a very subtle and clever shift some 30 minutes into the album, however, where Milligan's more classic jazz stylings give way to a series of compositions with an undeniable and intriguing Celtic nuance.

There's great innovation on the album, especially on "Shrubrub," which literally assails the listener's ears with the stunning rhythmic capability of Bancroft's bodhran playing with Milligan's angular piano improvisation -- this is a track that combines jazz with Celticism in a highly original way, a superlative track (with a superb bodhran solo at the end). There's a wonderful recreation of the pibroch style on "Piper's Bidding," where the bowed bass creates the drone of the bagpipe, followed by Milligan's immensely elegant piano touches. Throughout the recording, the classy combination of piano with drum and bass works perfectly -- I cite "One Day" as yet further evidence! There's consistent and effective use of rhythm and structure from start to finish. On "Tom Tom Tom," for example, the spacious arrangement allows the bassist and drummer to really show what they're made of. Tracks such as "Boiler Man" and "Gadgemo" seem to wear a more capricious face -- this is very enjoyable music. "Wednesday Song" combines lyricism with genuine improvisation beautifully.

Late Show brims with interest and detail for anyone who loves innovative, structured yet lyrical jazz -- it's the best jazz album I've heard in ages and is strongly recommended!

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 21 August 2004