Dominic J Marshall


Course Studied: BA Jazz

Year of Graduation: 2010

Top Career Highlights:

  • Being a guest on Jamie Cullum's radio show (Nov 2016)
  • Performing at Glastonbury Festival with Cinematic Orchestra (2017)
  • Playing to 1,000,000 people on national Dutch TV show 'De Wereld Draait Door' with the Dom J Marshall Trio

Highly versatile pianist Dominic J Marshall has already produced four impressive albums. His latest – The Triolithic received much critical acclaim. Performance highlights include work with his self-named trio (feat. fellow alumni Sam Vicary and Sam Gardner), nu-jazz collective The Cinematic Orchestra and electronic project - 〄 DJM 〄.

Dominic was an Alan Hawkshaw Scholarship recipient holder during his time at Leeds Conservatoire and has since been awarded both The Countess of Munster Musical Trust and a Help Musicians UK Emerging Excellence Award. In 2013, he was selected by Jamie Cullum, Gilles Peterson and Jez Nelson to perform on the BBC Introduces showcase during Manchester Jazz Festival. Speaking about Dominic, Cullum says he “brings together a great heritage of the past, but also something very fresh and new.”

Here, Dominic discusses his musical journey so far.

What first got you into playing piano and how did your love for Jazz begin?

My dad was a piano teacher and used to play to me and my brother when we were in the womb. I decided to have lessons with him because it seemed like fun.

My love for jazz began later when my brother gave me a Bill Evans minidisc, around the age of 13.

What attracted you to studying music in Leeds?

I liked the city and the teachers, and I got a scholarship (the Alan Hawkshaw Scholarship) to study there. I hadn't been studying jazz for long so considered myself lucky to get the opportunity.

What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned whilst studying at Leeds Conservatoire?

There are too many to list… but I learned about the value of friends who push you to get better, and also the power of music to unite people from different age groups, countries and backgrounds.

How has your study at Leeds Conservatoire aided your career so far and how has your career developed since graduation?

Leeds Conservatoire gave me the tools and knowledge in order for me to develop my craft to the fullest degree. After graduating I moved to Amsterdam to do my Masters (at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam), and my career has developed steadily since.

How did you get into working with The Cinematic Orchestra, and has playing with them changed how you play, or adapted your style?

A good friend and band-member of mine started playing with them and recommended me when they were looking for a new member.

Playing with Cinematic has made me a lot more conscious of many aspects of music - too many to list again. It has been a new stage of my education. 

You also work on an electronic project, 〄 DJM 〄, how does your jazz background inform this? Do you feel that the two styles feed into each other in some way?

Yeah, I was making beats on my Mac even in my first year at Leeds Conservatoire. It has informed my jazz playing as well as vice versa. They definitely feed into each other.

Not that I'm necessarily making 'hip-hop' anymore, but hip-hop came out of funk, which came out of soul, which came from Motown, and when you trace back you get to jazz. 

How difficult has it been to keep up those other projects such as 〄 DJM 〄 alongside a busy performance schedule?

You prioritise different things at different times. For example when you're touring, it might be more important to spend a free hour going for a walk rather than trying to compose. Or when you have time at home, it might be better to get some practice done instead of watching another episode of Steins;Gate.

Your music tends to display hip-hop, groove and electronica influences alongside jazz. What is it you love about these particular styles?

I don't really think about music in terms of styles... I'm always just listening out for the meaning, or the feeling, in a piece of music. That can be found in literally all styles of music from Chinese folk to French post-impressionist to baroque to Detroit hip-hop... There's something very human about the urge to make rhythms and melodies. 

How helpful was the Masters programme at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam? What did you gain musically from studying in a different country?

It was very helpful. Similarly to Leeds Conservatoire, there was freedom for the musicians to thrive and find their own voice. There was also space to socialise and find out about different cultures.

What would you say is your greatest career achievement to date?

I think the greatest achievement is that I'm still alive and happily pursuing music. Many great creative minds get lost along the journey. To have met and played with some of my heroes is a beautiful blessing for which I'm thankful.

What projects, releases or tours do you have planned for the near future?

I've recently completed a mini-tour of the UK with my trio which included two dates in London and one in Leeds.

I have an impending 〄 DJM 〄 cassette release on the notorious Dirty Tapes label of New York. In the New Year I'm releasing Cave Art vol.2, another instalment of hip-hop remixes with my trio, on Paxico Records. And my next 〄 DJM 〄 album ‘Compassion Fruit’ is going to be coming out on vinyl too.

Besides that I'm planning to record my next trio album, the follow-up to The Triolithic… there's lots to be excited about!

Find out more about Dominic via his website - click here

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