The Squid's Ear Magazine

Nicols, Maggie

Are You Ready? [VINYL]

Nicols, Maggie: Are You Ready?  [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Reflecting on a magnificent career as an improviser, vocalist & organizer, including Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Les Diaboliques and the Feminist Improvising Group, Maggie Nichols releases an LP solo vocal improv: a set of intimate & expresive songs performed on voice and piano applying techniques going back to John Stevens/SME, and a take on Zappa's 'what's the ugliest part of your body'.
 

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Maggie Nicols-vocals, piano


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'Slow Within The Urgency' inspired by mindfulness teacher Jeff Warren. Original poem 'Sans Papiers' by Vicky Scrivener. Original poem 'You Darkness' by Rainer Maria Rilke. Music and lyrics to 'Music Is The Healing Force of The Universe' by Mary Maria Parks.

UPC: 5056321659248

Label: Otoroku
Catalog ID: ROKU 032LP
Squidco Product Code: 32547

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: UK
Packaging: LP
Recorded at Cafe OTO, in London, UK, on July 15th, 16th and 17th, 2021, by Shaun Crook.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"While she might be best known as an improviser (most notably in Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the Feminist Improvising Group and more recently with the likes of Les Diaboliques), Maggie Nicols' talents stretch into song, dance, poetry, performance and composition. When Cafe OTO was shut over lockdown we invited her to follow up the wonderful solo 'Creative Contradiction' with some time spent singing alone at the piano. Are You Ready? comprises an LP of songs and a 2CD edition which includes a companion disk of freely improvised meditations entitled, 'Whatever Arises'.

Songs - seemingly contradictory to the practices of free improvisation - have been a vital part in Nicols' relationship to music. It was singing bebop with pianist Dennis Rose which nurtured and challenged Nicols, allowing her to develop her own skills and sound amongst a repertoire of standards sung in clubs and pubs. Vocalising alongside Julie Tippetts in Centipede showed her how heady experimentation could be woven into composition, and more recently a gig with pianist Steve Lodder played out 'The Maggie Nicols Songbook.'

Are You Ready? recalls Nicols' own compositions from memory, working out tunes and turning them over. New routes down old paths form in moments of improvisation and all wrong turns are played out with joyous discovery. What John Stevens dubbed Maggie's "ability to find the 'rhythmelodic'" meets a willingness to be understood and to understand. Solo at the piano, Nicols is still firmly rooted in the collective however - "Sans Papiers" sets the words of poet Vicky Scrivener to tune; a story of migration and struggle which is as important to Nicols as the songs her mother wrote.

Such an intimate recording of her own compositions came with a certain amount of reflection and anxiety - best confronted with time spent freely improvising. 'Whatever Arises' - a companion disk to 'Songs' - is a meditation of sorts, a process of 'following the energy' which has its roots in John Stevens' work. "Improvisation gives the confidence to compose," Nicols told us in an interview about some of her archival tapes, and here the two are as important as each other. Beginning with breath and repetition, 'Whatever Arises' allows Nicols' to find new voices, accompanied by the piano and over dubbings of her tap shoes on the concrete floor. Brilliantly she is able to share her moments of discovery with the listener, finding comfort in vulnerability. Whilst rooted in Stevens' work, Nicols' improvisational techniques also remind us of Pauline Oliveros' Sonic Meditations. They are what has allowed Nicols to find her own sound, to 'teach herself to fly.' They have allowed Nicols to grow and share and to be able to keep close the songs that mean so much to her, now shared with us."-Otoroku

Also available in a companion work on Compact Disc.
'Slow Within The Urgency' inspired by mindfulness teacher Jeff Warren. Original poem 'Sans Papiers' by Vicky Scrivener. Original poem 'You Darkness' by Rainer Maria Rilke. Music and lyrics to 'Music Is The Healing Force of The Universe' by Mary Maria Parks.

Artist Biographies

"Maggie Nicols (or Nichols, as she originally spelled her name as a performer) (born 24 February 1948), is a Scottish free-jazz and improvising vocalist, dancer, and performer.

Nicols was born in Edinburgh as Margaret Nicholson. Her father was from the Isle of Lewis, and her mother is half-French, half-Berber from North Africa. 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 at the age of sixteen. 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 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).[citation needed]

In 1968, she went to London and joined (as Maggie Nichols) an early improvisational group, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, with John Stevens, Trevor Watts, and Johnny Dyani, and the group performed that year at Berlin's then new avant-garde festival, Total Music Meeting. In the early 1970s 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 afterwards she became part of Keith Tippett's fifty-piece British jazz/progressive rock big band Centipede, which included Julie Tippetts, Phil Minton, Robert Wyatt, Dudu Pukwana, and Alan Skidmore. Tippetts, Minton, and Nicols also joined Brian Eley to form the vocal group Voice. Around the same time Nicols began collaborating with the Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder (who had recently moved to London) and his band Talisker.[citation needed]

Maggie Nicols recorded an album with the vocalist Julie Tippetts called Sweet and S'Ours which was an FMP]] import.

By the late 1970s, Nicols had become an active feminist, and co-founded the Feminist Improvising Group, which performed across Europe, with Lindsay Cooper. She also organised Contradictions, a women's workshop performance group that began in 1980 and dealt with improvisation and other modes of performance in a variety of media 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 Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer and French bassist Joelle Leandre, including tours and three recordings as the trio "Les Diaboliques". Her collaboration with Ken Hyder also continues; the duo incorporate elements of the traditional tunes of their shared Scottish background into jazz improvisations in their most recent project, Hoots and Roots Duo. She has worked with pianists Pete Nu and Steve Lodder, with her own daughter, Aura Marina, with avant-gardists Caroline Kraabel and Charlotte Hug, and with lighting designer Sue Neal in Light and Shade. She performed internationally for several decades, including the Zürich and the Frankfurt "Canaille" festivals, the Victoriaville Festival. She gave solo performances at the Moers Music Festival, the Cologne Triennale, and a number of other creative and improvised music festivals."

-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_Nicols)
2/21/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



SIDE A



1. Donnie And Zouina 5:42

2. Are You Ready / Sans Papiers 5:49

3. Steady Eddie And The Firefly 6:09

5. Like The Lotus 2:18

SIDE B



1. La Vie S’en Va (Life Is Fleeting) (Improvisation around original song by Zouēna Benhalla. “What’s the ugliest part of your body?” is a quote from Frank Zappa’s song of the same name) 19:51

Related Categories of Interest:


Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Unusual Vocal Forms
Piano & Keyboards
Solo Artist Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

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