Maggie Nicols or Nichols, as she originally spelt her name as a performer, was born Margaret Nicholson on February 24, 1948 in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the age of fifteen 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 a year later. At about that time she became obsessed with jazz, and sang 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 1968, Maggie went to London and joined an early improvisational group, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, and performed at Berlin’s new avant-garde festival. In the early 1970s she began running voice workshops at the Oval House Theatre, acted in some of the productions and rehearsed regularly with a local rock band. Shortly afterwards she became part of Keith Tippett’s fifty-piece British jazz/progressive rock big band Centipede. She joined Brian Eley and formed the vocal group Voice, and around the same time began collaborating with the Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder and his band Talisker.
By the late 1970s, Nicols had become an active feminist, co-founded the Feminist Improvising Group, organized Contradictions, a women’s workshop performance group in 1980 and dealt with improvisation. 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 Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer and French bassist Joelle Leandre, touring and recording. She continues her duo collaboration with Ken Hyder, pianists Pete Nu and Steve Lodder, with her own daughter, Aura Marina, with avant-gardists Caroline Kraabe, Charlotte Hug and lighting designer Sue Neal. She performs throughout Europe and internationally at a variety of creative and improvised music festivals.
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Wayne Escoffery was born on February 23, 1975 in London, England. He and his mother emigrated to the U.S. in 1986 and settled in New Haven, Connecticut. At age eleven he joined The New Haven Trinity Boys Choir and began taking saxophone lessons from Malcolm Dickinson. By sixteen, he had left the choir and engaged in a more intensive study of the saxophone in New York City at the Jazzmobile, the Neighborhood Music School and the ACES Educational Center for the Arts, both in New Haven.
During his senior year in high School, he attended the Artists Collective, Inc. in Hartford, Connecticut. While there he met Jackie McLean who founded the jazz program at The Hartt School, that Escoffery would ultimately attend under scholarship. He went on to matriculate through the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory in Boston. During this time, he toured with Herbie Hancock and performed and studied with several jazz greats. In 1999, he graduated with a Masters degree and moved to New York to begin his professional career.
Since 2000, Wayne has been working in New York City with Carl Allen, Eric Reed, Mingus Big Band, Ralph Peterson, Ben riley, Ron Carter, Rufus Reid, Bill Charlap, Bruce Barth, Jimmy Cobb, Eddie Henderson, Mary Stallings, Cynthia Scott, Nancie Banks, Laverne Butler and his wife, Carolyn Leonhart.
Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery has released nine albums to date and in addition, he collaborates with his wife, continues to perform with his own quartet and quintet, the Tom Harrell Quintet, Abdullah Ibrahim’s Akaya and Jazz At Lincoln Center and others.
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Kellye Gray was born in Dallas, Texas on February 22, 1954. Beginning her career on Austin’s Sixth Street, she provided a rare jazz experience that attracted the college crowd as well as the more sophisticated up-and-coming baby boomers.
In 1990 her first album, Standards In Gray soared to #12 on the Gavin Report. Three years later, another chart-topper, Tomato Kiss helped her move into the national spotlight. An induction into the Texas Jazz Heritage Society along with moving to San Francisco continued to raise the bar and legitimized her as a career jazz vocalist
Her career stalled in 2000 after bereavement and divorce. Not one to be driven too far off-track, in 2002–03 Kellye produced the double live album Blue and Pink. By early 2007 she had put a new team together and released the concert recording, Live at the Jazzschool recorded in Berkeley.
2008 opened with another live recording, KG3 Live! at the Bugle Boy an acoustic trio project featuring classical guitar, acoustic bass and jazz voice. In the summer of 2010 she was the Vocal Intensive instructor at Jazz Camp West in California.
Kellye Gray has performed for dignitaries and heads-of-state throughout the U.S. and Europe performing with a wide variety of jazz, blues and R&B stars. She continues to sing at festivals, concerts and nightclubs.
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10 Cents A Dance is a song originally written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the Broadway play Simple Simon, which became the inspiration for the 1931 romance-drama film of the same name. The film starred Barbara Stanwyck as a married taxi dancer who falls in love with one of her customers.
The Story: A beautiful streetwise taxi dancer named Barbara O’Neill works at a New York City dance hall called Palais de Dance. One of the dance hall’s wealthy patrons, Bradley Carlton comes to the hall and gives Barbara $100. Concerned about her unemployed friend and neighbor Eddie Miller, Barbara asks Bradley to give him a job, and he agrees. They fall in love, get married, Eddie philanders, they get divorced, they remarry, and then he wanders off to South America. Realizing their love is not strong enough she tries to get another divorce but gets denied by the judge. But after a fight and his gambling she packs her bags, goes to the dance hall and leaves with Bradley for France.
Christian Howes was born on February 21, 1972 in Rocky River, Ohio but grew up in Columbus. From the age of five he studied classical violin and by 16 was performing with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. He would go on to matriculate through Ohio State University with a degree in philosophy.
When Christian turned twenty he began playing at regular gospel church services and his interest turned to becoming a jazz voice. Over the next few years he became one of the world’s most respected jazz violinists. He worked with Les Paul for eleven years. Since 2001 he has become an in-demand violinist on the New York jazz scene collaborating with Greg Osby, D.D. Jackson, Frank Vignola, Joel Harrison, Dafnis Prieto, Dave Samuels, Spyro Gyra and a 4-year chair in Bill Evans “Soulgrass” band.
Howes has been recognized by Jazz Times as one of three top violinists, Down Beat Critics Poll’s #2 Rising Star and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune called him the fiercest violinist since Billy Bang.
As an educator he has taught as an Associate Professor at Beklee College of Music and established the Creative String Workshop and Festival. Teacher, composer, producer and violinist Christian Howes also plays the viola, guitar and bass guitar and continues to perform and record.