Knowing that Dominic J Marshall had already completed two music degrees, recorded three jazz albums, won the Leeds College of Music Piano Prize and launched himself as electronic music producer DJM made for high, if uncertain, expectations.
The alarmingly youthful-looking musician led his trio onto the Future Inns stage with diffident ease, and once settled behind the piano proceeded to unfold some of the freshest and most interesting contemporary jazz the room has heard.
It was immediately clear this was not going to be a ‘clap the solos’ gig – the music was too integrated for that – but very much a ‘trust me and go with the flow’ affair.
The real tightness between the players – Sam Vicary on electric bass, Sam Gardner playing drums – allowed the pianist’s compositions to evolve naturally, leaving the listener to untangle what complexities were hidden beneath the unruffled surface.
Vicary was especially impressive, using both tone and style to give a defining colour to pieces like Fictions, a sort-of-blues with a five-time flamenco motif, while Gardner offered an unfussy underpinning that quietly elaborated the music’s ideas.
This was most evident on Ptah’s Vibration, where he carefully unleashed the rhythm behind a slinky, Mose Allison style groove (albeit with an errant half-bar) while on White Nights the drumming locked into Vicary’s hard as nails bass and cranked the tune to a pushing energy of Bad Plus proportions.
But for all the egality of the trio playing the over-riding presence was Marshall himself, both in the distinction of his writing and the breadth of his playing.
For all that there are influences – the intelligent clarity of Brad Mehldau, for one obvious example – he’s very much his own man and this is very much his own music.
Throughout the evening he continually produced surprises, whether through technical choices or musical structures, but these were not the irksomely wilful disjunctures a young player can affect, rather a mature capacity to see beyond the obvious and know how to go there.
It was captivating stuff that spoke of a fine career ahead for Dominic J Marshall.