Dave Milligan




Dave Milligan is primarily a jazz pianist and improviser, but one whose musical imagination flows freely between all kinds of musical genres.

Growing up in the Scottish Borders, he started learning piano at the age of six and was inspired by a diverse array of musicians through a small but varied record collection in the family home. He went on to study Jazz & Contemporary Music at the City of Leeds College of music before settling in Edinburgh in the early 1990’s. To this day he continues to draw inspiration from a wide range of music; from Jazz to Folk & Traditional, and Film scores to Dance music.

In a professional career spanning twenty years, Dave has performed all over the world. He is one of the most highly regarded pianists in Scotland, and has gained an enviable reputation as a highly skilled composer and arranger, writing works for large-scale ensembles down to solos, duos, string quartets and numerous arrangements for small groups.

He is currently Musical Director of youth folk orchestra The Gordon Duncan Experience at Horsecross in Perth, and is in demand as a guest tutor at numerous youth learning projects, including: Feis Rois and Folkworks Durham Gathering: Youth Summer School.


 “A pianist of quite astonishing verve and subtlety… a whirlwind tour de force. 

“Excellent… He has a technique that opens rich possibilities in any contemporary piano style.“

“Scottish music, Jazz, Cuban rhythms – all let out with an entirely natural sense of flow.”

“Dazzling music-making… he is equally at home in jazz and folk, and the genres are now deeply interlinked in his musical imagination.”



As a collaborator and sideman, Dave has worked with a huge range of musicians from very diverse backgrounds – in one-off projects to long-term partnerships.

Since the mid 1990s he’s been working with award-winning trumpeter Colin Steele on a variety of projects including: Midnight Blue Band, Melting Pot, Masquenada, Colin Steele Quintet, Stramash and most recently in duo format.

He has been pianist and arranger for all three albums by Colin’s Quintet as well as the debut release for the 10-piece Stramash.

Dave have also worked extensively over the last decade with writer and story-teller Mike Maran on his theatre shows ‘Did You Used To Be R.D. Laing?’,A Funny Valentine – The Story and Music of Chet Baker’ and he wrote the score for ‘Novecento – The Legend of 1900’.

His duo with concertina virtuoso Simon Thoumire has also been a greatly admired musical partnership over the last decade. They first met whilst playing on a tour of Germany with the band Seannachie. It was clear that their playing complemented each other’s styles and they decided to make an album together. The CD “The Big Day In” was launched at Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours festival in October 2001. Since then they have played all over the UK, Europe, Canada & Australia, and have released a second album “Third Flight Home”.

“If you could pick a word to use after a Simon Thoumire and Dave Milligan Concert it had to be ‘wow’. However, to come out and say ‘wow’ would be just a crime. To do their concert justice you would have to run down the main street of Ikaalinen and scream it at the top of your voice WOW!” (From a review of a sellout concert at Sata-Häme Soi Accordion Festival in Ikaalinen, Finland.)

In 1998 he teamed up with Shetland fiddle star Catriona Macdonald to form the core of her band, they have since recorded two hugely popular albums and toured throughout the UK, Europe and Canada. January 2000 also saw Catriona create the String Sisters project and it premiered at Celtic Connections that year. This project brought together six of the most exciting female fiddle players in the world: Liz Carroll, Annbjørg Lien, Liz Knowles, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Natalie MacMaster, later replaced by Emma Hardelin.

2007 saw them release the sensational String Sisters “Live in Norway” CD & DVD for which they were nominated for The Spelamann Prize. They have performed some extensive tours of Scandinavia, and in 2012 headlined at the  Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo.

Other artists Dave has worked with include: Art Farmer, Trilok Gurtu, Scott Hamilton, Pete King, Joe Temperley, Harry Allen, Charlie Mariano, Valery Ponamarev, Bill McHenry, Spike Robinson, Howard Alden, Ken Peplowski and Buddy DeFranco, Julian Arguelles, Tommy Smith, Carol Kidd, Tina May, Camille O’Sullivan, Eliza Carthy, McFall’s Chamber, Session A9, Alasdair Fraser, Chris Stout and Gordie Sampson.




Dave has written an extensive range of work: commissions, original music for recordings, theatre, T.V and Radio. These include works for Piano solos & duos, Jazz Trio, String Quartet, Large Folk Ensemble, Jazz Big Band, as well as countless tunes performed by groups within both Jazz & Folk idioms.

In 1998 Dave was amongst the first musicians to be invited to write music for the New Voices series at the Celtic Connections festival. The result was a 45 minute work for 2 two pianos, performed along with Scottish piano legend Andy Thorburn. More recently, he was commissioned to write for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra, for which he produced the 90 minute work ‘Sylvander & Clarinda’, featuring an international 16-piece jazz big band plus three of Scotland’s leading folk singers Karine Polwart, Annie Grace & Corrina Hewat. Dave is currently working on some brand-new music for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, to be performed by the ‘Stone Islands Big Band’ – an exciting new eleven piece group made up of Scottish, Italian and Sardinian musicians.