CD Review: Dominic Marshall - Spirit Speech

Dominic Marshall - Spirit Speech
(Origin 82659. CD review by Mike Collins)

This follow-up to his 2012 release Icaros finds 24-year-old pianist Dominic Marshall in great form and still exploring the potential of the acoustic piano trio. He has developed a distinctive voice and it earned his trio a slot on the ‘Introducing’ stage at last summer’s Manchester Jazz Festival, attracting admiring comments from Jamie Cullum.

With Tobias Nijboer on bass and Jamie Peet on drums the set of 11 originals hint at all sorts of inspirations, but there is a very consistent sound scape. The rich, dense sound of Marshall’s piano is unsurprisingly at the centre of things. He makes full use of fluently shifting chords with thick voicings whether over simpler vamps or more complex harmony. There are lots of tricksy, stuttering countermelodies and riffs in the lower register, frequently locked with the bass. The varying grooves from the drums push the atmosphere and feel in different directions.

The opener Austin Peralta starts with a simple motif in the right hand with one of those left hand doubling the bass counter-melodies; a stately theme that could go in any direction – dissolve into abstract ECM like reverie or evolve into a Bobo Stenson like folky, singing melodic solo. As it is, a gently clattering, muted funky groove from the drums shifts us in another direction altogether. The whole album is like this with harmonic and rhythmic references from everywhere including dance and hip hop music and each composition combines them differently often with unexpected shifts.

The theme of ballad Unflinchingly is voiced with more of those dense chords over angular harmony. Tiwananka has an arresting riff that is constantly disrupted by rhythmically wonky, dissonant episodes giving way to a dramatic crescendo of repeated chords. On Bud and Enter the Void Marshall stretches out and builds fluent and driving solos.

This is an excellent, imaginative and distinctive album and repays repeated listens.

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