...it feels like his fabulous gift for piano-playing isn't quite being matched in...
Alwyn Turner 2005
Comparisons are invidious but inevitable. The success of Jamie Cullum has created a demand -at least in record company circles -for more of the same. And so here comes the big-label debut of Scottish-born, 25-year-old singer/pianist Paddy Milner, following on from his self-released album 21st Century Blues.
Inhabiting the bluesier end of jazz, it's a self-confident collection of songs that should do sufficient to establish Milner as a genuine talent, without quite providing enough evidence that he's yet the finished article.
His strongest suit is undoubtedly his instrumental prowess, a boogie-woogie-derived, free-flowing piano style that hits its peak on a rattling, joyous version of Dave Brubeck's "Unsquare Dance". If this hasn't yet been used on an advert, it can only be a matter of time. That was the first single, released in 2004; the second is the self-penned "You Think You're So Damn Funny", and here some of the weaker elements of his style become apparent. Instantly infectious, it comes straight at you with all horns blazing, but Milner's voice isn't quite strong enough to stamp his authority on the piece, and the lyrics lack the incisive punch needed for a great put-down song ('Your verbal diarrhoea never disappears' doesn't warrant the repetition it receives).
Aware perhaps that the vocals aren't sufficient to carry much weight, the production - by Milner himself -and the arrangements are a little too frantic. This leads to asound which at times lacks subtlety. There is, however, sufficient variation within the tracks to hold your interest, from the Steely Dan-lite title track to the fairground waltz of "Can't Escape The Song" to the New Orleans roll of "Lazy Monday".
It sounds, in short, like its got the makings of a hugely enjoyable live set. All that's missing is that vital spark that would make it become something special. It will surely come for Milner, the brilliance of "Unsquare Dance" is testament to that, but at the moment it feels like his fabulous gift for piano-playing isn't quite being matched in other departments. One to look out for in the future.