I first met Nicki when she first attended my classes at the Leeds College of Music as an 18 year old student.
She was in my ‘Writing and Notation’ class and also played piano in my six piece jazz/rock ensemble (She also played double bass in an all girl’s band fronted by Mike Cox called ‘The Dixie Belles’ which was quite popular).
As was my practice back then, I tried to get young students to have as much professional experience as possible so I used to arrange for them to do ‘live’ gigs around the Leeds area while I just tagged along to make sure that they were safe and sound. Like most young students, Nicki didn’t have any transport so my wife, Pat, and I (yes, she used to come too) used to run her home to her parents house in Garforth after the gig.
Years later, in the evenings, I was running a very successful jazz quintet called ‘The Quintessential Five’ and Nicki was fast becoming a well known vocalist so we got together to form what was to become the Nicki Allan Sextet. I played drums and wrote most of the arrangements with others being supplied by Nicki, herself, and Graham Hearn, who was the pianist. The other members of the band were: Adrian Knowles – double bass, Joel Purnell – tenor saxophone, and Mark Chandler – trumpet and flugelhorn horn.
Nicki also wrote original compositions for the sextet and soon it became as popular as the quintet. We were together for many fun filled happy years playing at all the local jazz clubs and it was during this period the Nicki won the coveted award for ‘Best Jazz Vocalist’ presented by Jazz Yorkshire in 2010.
She also sang regularly with my ‘All-Star JazzOrchestra’ from it’s first beginnings some 12 years ago culminating in my sell-out 90th birthday concert at the ‘Venue’ in the Leeds College of Music last year to start the Leeds Jazz Festival Week. She, and four other well known vocalists, appeared as guests of honour to sing with the orchestra when this fabulous night to remember was was presented by the ‘Seven Arts’ Jazz Club.
Nicki is now one of the most sought after vocalists in the north of England in addition to being a well known educator, teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and the Leeds College of Music. She also runs a very successful and popular vocal choir at the ‘Seven Arts’Jazz Club in Chapel Allerton, Leeds.
Nicki now plays piano, herself, in her latest quintet as well as performing with other ensembles and big bands and as a solo artist, in fact, she’s busy, busy, busy and the only downside of that is that you can never get to talk to her on the phone.
I still occasionally write an arrangement for her latest quintet as we’re still the best of friends after all these years – and long may it continue ‘cos I love her to bits.
multi award winning drummer, educator, arranger and author