Born February 24, 1948 in Edinburgh, Scotland, vocalist Maggie Nicols (or Nichols as her name was written in former days) has worked on almost every kind of project.
At the age of 15 she left school and started to work as a dancer at the Windmill Theatre. Her first singing engagement was in a strip club in Manchester at the age of 16. About that time she became obsessed with Jazz and was singing with bebop pianist Dennis Rose. From then on she sang in pubs, clubs, hotels and in dance bands with some of the finest jazz musicians around. In the midst of all this she worked abroad for a year as a dancer (including a six-month stint at the Moulin Rouge in Paris).
In 1968, she joined an early improvisational group, with John Stevens, Trevor Watts, and Johnny Dyani, the "Spontaneous Music Ensemble", and the group performed that year at Berlin's then new avant-garde festival, Total Music Meeting.
In the early 70s she began running voice workshops at the Oval House Theatre (one of the most important centres for pioneer fringe theatre groups). She both acted in some of the productions and rehearsed regularly with a local rock band. Shortly after she became part of Keith Tippett's magnificent fifty piece band "Centipede" which included Julie Tippetts, Phil Minton, Robert Wyatt, Dudu Pukwana and Alan Skidmore. Julie, Phil and Maggie got together with Brian Ely and formed the vocal group Voice.Around this time, Nicols also began collaborating with the Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder (who had recently moved to London).
By the late '70s, Nicols became an active feminist and co-founded the group OVA, as well as the Feminist Improvising Group, with Lindsay Cooper. She also organized Contradictions, a women's workshop performance group that began in 1980 and dealt with improvisation and other modes of performance in a variety of mediums including music and dance. Over the years, Nicols has collaborated with other women's groups such as the Changing Women Theatre Group, and even wrote music for a prime-time television series Women in Sport.
Nicols has also collaborated regularly over the years with pianist Irene Schweizer and formidable bassist Joelle Leandre, including tours and three recordings as the trio Les Diaboliques. In addition to this is her ongoing collaboration with Ken Hyder. The duo incorporates elements of the traditional tunes of their shared Scottish background into jazz improvisations in their most recent project, Hoots and Roots Duo . Other continuing projects for Nicols include a duo with pianist Pete Nu, a singing duo with her daughter Aura Marina, a trio with Caroline Kraabel and Charlotte Hug, a duo with pianist Steve Lodder ("The Maggie Nicols Songbook") as well as Light and Shade, a project with lighting designer Sue Neal. Furthermore she was involved with many other groups, such as the acapella group Inspiration (former Brixton Youth), Trevor Watts Moire Music, Very Varied, The Lewis Riley Quartet, No Rules OK, Pulse, Gustt and Al Dente.
Maggie Nicols has performed internationally for several decades, for instance at the Zürich and the Frankfurt "Canaille" festivals, the Victoriaville Festival. She also gave solo performances at the Moers Music Festival, the Cologne Triennale, and a number of other creative and improvised music festivals. She has worked with a great many improvisers from all over the world including drummer Günter "Baby" Sommer, British soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill, Dutch trombonist and violinist Annemarie Roelofs, the Australian Relative Band (with Jim Denley), tuba player Pinguin Moschner, the Loverly Band as well as Cats Craddle and Sean Bergin's Song Mob (with Han Bennink and Tristan Honsinger).