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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Paddy Milner

Walking on Eggshells.

Bronze Records Ltd, GBRCD 100.




Paddy Milner. Walking on Eggshells. (Bronze Records Ltd, GBRCD 1001).

1. Walking On Eggshells
2. You Think You’re So Damn Funny
3. After The Rain
4. Unsquare Dance
5. Run For Cover
6. Dreamtime
7. Rollin’ & Tumblin’
8. Can’t Escape The Song
9. Lazy Monday
10. Falling For The Moon
11. I Live The Life I Love
12. Beware Of The Groove
13. Back To The Real World
14. The Awakening

Paddy Milner (piano, vocals, hammond A-100 organ, Rhodes electric piano); Adam Skinner (drums); Paul Sandy (double bass on tracks 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12); Chris Hill (double bass on track 14); Pete Clarke (electric bass on tracks 1, 2, 6 and 10); Scott Wiber (electric bass on track 13); Robbie McIntosh (electric and acoustic guitars on tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10 and 11); Randall Breneman (electric guitar on track 13); Mark Feltham (harmonica on track 11); Derek Nash (tenor and baritone saxophones on tracks 2, 5, 6 and 7); Martin Shaw (trumpet and flugel horn on tracks 2, 5, 6 and 7); Liam Kirkman (trombone on tracks 2, 5, 6 and 7)

It’s a common belief in jazz purist circles that Britain today has more than its fair share of bright young hipsters, modern to the core, intent on dragging the sacred art form in to the gutters of Top of the Pops. But twenty-five year old Paddy Milner seems have something different to offer. His debut album, 21st Century Boogie, was released to a flood of outstanding reviews, solidly sealing his reputation as one of our most original musicians. On Paul Jones’s Radio 2 show, the album was placed in the year’s top ten records, whilst Milner himself was shortlisted for the British Blues Keyboard Player of 2002. Even the great Jules Holland has become an ardent fan. "You make the piano sing," he told Milner - and compliments don’t come higher than that.

Milner stands out through his voice alone; charismatic, bold and punky, it couldn’t be further from the bland crooner-smooth so prevalent amongst his contemporaries. He likewise avoids the all-to-common trap of committing to one particular sound. Drawing on vast and varied influences, Walking on Eggshells takes the listener through an ever-exciting, and often surprising, voyage of musical genres. With their classic blues feel and lovely orchestration, ‘Lazy Monday’ and ‘I Live the Life I Love’ will delight the very staunchest of traditionalists. Those with slightly more modern tastes will enjoy the cheeky, sca-like feel of ‘You Think You’re So Damn Funny’, Milner’s current single. There’s even a hint of a dance music influence - particularly on the frantic ‘Falling for the Moon’, with its drum and bass intro, electronic effects and funky electric bass line.

Milner’s classical training, however, is apparent throughout the album, bringing a mixture of precision and emotion to many of the gentler tracks. The introduction to ‘Run for Cover’ - with its quiet, sombre piano and vocals - shows him capable of great tenderness. In his solo, then, we get a glimpse of just how technically brilliant he is, playing with incredible power and emotion, without a single superfluous note. With elegance, ease and sophistication, he builds intensity gradually, paving the way for the return of the musicians and bringing the tune to its climax.

Formal training has also instilled in Milner a passionate love of composition - which is evident on each of the eight tracks here that were written or co-written by him. But the album also includes a few classics that jazz fans will no doubt recognise. Dave Brubeck’s ‘Unsquare Dance’ is a particularly striking example. Both complex and highly charismatic at the same time, it demonstrates the band working well together whilst showcasing Milner’s incredible virtuosity. Perfectly arranged and subtly employed, the brass section add to the depth of piece, whilst leaving room for Milner to impress. Banging the bass notes out like thunder, whilst trickling away at the higher registers, he builds the tune to an exciting finish, carried off with immense precision. It’s little wonder that Brubeck himself said he ‘wouldn’t change a note’.

And neither would I - this is beautifully created music, interesting, original and absorbing to the end. It’s only Milner’s lyrics, in fact, that occasionally let the album down. Awkward constructions, clumsy rhymes and jarringly pretentious diction crop a bit too often for comfort. But chances are you’ll be busy grooving to pay much attention to this minor fault. Whilst it’s not always poetry, ‘Walking on Eggshells’ is brimming with life and character. Great tunes, great musicians, and, overall, a great buy.

Robert Gibson

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