Stone Islands

Dave Milligan

Stone Islands


Stone Islands is a collaboration between Sardinian saxophonist, Enzo Favata, and Scottish musicians, Colin Steele and Dave Milligan. A  special 11 piece group, consisting of six Scottish and five Italian musicians, all leading players. Their music is rooted just as much in European folk musics – from the Mediterranean islands to the North Atlantic islands – as it is in jazz, and their spirited playing finds constant connections between Italian and Scottish traditions, as well as inspiring beautiful melodies and some astonishingly moving music.

Dave Milligan (piano)
Enzo Favata (saxophones)
Colin Steele (trumpet)
Riccardo Pittau (trumpet)
Filippo Vignato (trombone)
Phil O’Malley (trombone)
Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor saxophone)
Martin Kershaw (alto saxophone)
Graeme Stephen (guitar)
Danilo Gallo (bass)
U. T. Gandhi (drums)




Rob Adams

July 29 2013

Stone Islands

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The spirit of Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath hovered over this second instalment of a collaboration that was instigated for last year’s jazz festival.

McGregor’s troupe was an amalgamation of his fellow South Africans with some of the most adventurous players from the 1970s London jazz scene, while this team draws from Sardinian, Italian and Scottish talents, but the two bands share a taste for blending ethnic traditions into jubilant, hard-swinging jazz in a line-up that falls just below big band dimensions.

One short of the advertised dozen, Stone Islands nonetheless created a rich, vibrant sound. Trumpeter Colin Steele’s Kirsten’s Jig danced its way into a full-on Scottish boogie and his colleague, saxophonist Enzo Favata, brought a raw Sardinian introduction to David Milligan’s nominally small but sonically large and punchy Minor Bump.

There was plenty of space for improvisation and a high-quality cast of improvisers on trumpet, saxophones, trombones and guitar, as well as the co-leaders, but what impressed particularly was the way the music was arranged so the improvised sections carried each composition forward. Milligan’s brilliantly developed piano solo on Favata’s roaring Ballao became all the more exciting for being buoyed by the arrival of the full ensemble at a crucial phase and other configurations, such as duelling saxophones brought into action on a nudge and propelled by the marvellous whip-crack drumming of Umberto Trombetta and sumptuous bass figures of Danilo Gallo, added to the sense that what we were witnessing was both accomplished and pregnant with possibilities.



Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival: Stone Islands at the Queen’s Hall,
reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kenny Mathieson


The name doesn’t give much away, but the faces behind it are familiar enough.

This ambitious Jazz Festival project had its roots in an earlier collaboration featuring trumpeter Colin Steele, pianist Dave Milligan and Sardinian saxophonist Enzo Favata, but this time writ large in the shape of an 11-piece band (not the advertised 12) of Scottish and Italian musicians.

The line up of four brass, three reeds, guitar, piano, bass and drums fell just short of a full big band, but offered the three arrangers no end of variety in timbre and colour to play with, and mustered a very impressive sonic presence.

The music featured new arrangements for this line-up, although Steele added an as yet untitled fast and furious new piece as a contrast to his graceful Sunset Over Loch Indall.

While each of the three leaders had his own distinctive compositional signature, they shared some common traits, including lyrical, folk-inflected melodies, bright open harmonies and surging rhythmic energy.

Projects of this kind can sound short of a rehearsal or two, but not this one.

With what amounted to an embarrassment of riches in the way of soloists on stage, each piece offered a fresh
perspective, and added new dimensions to such pieces as Steele’s Kristin’s Jig and Milligan’s funky Fly, which made for an exuberant encore.

Favata’s Ballao opened up into a freer, more raucous mode, as did Milligan’s Made in the Borders.