It was at this time that the piano took over as Nikki's principal instrument. During this period her involvement with jazz was deepening, prompting the decision to study at The Leeds College of Music between 1981-84 and eventually she settled in Yorkshire before finally moving back to London in September 1998. The first platform for her own composing was the group Emanon, led by trumpeter Richard Iles, which also included the guitarist Mike Walker and saxophonist Iain Dixon. In addition to Emanon, they were all members of the Creative Jazz Orchestra, working with Vince Mendoza, Anthony Braxton, Mike Gibbs, Kenny Wheeler and Mark Anthony Turnage. Nikki also began playing with several London based bands including the Steve Arguelles group, Mick Hutton's Straight Face, Stan Sulzmann's Quartet and Tina May. Throughout this time Nikki also maintained an important musical relationship with the bass-player Steve Berry and Sheffield-based drummer, Pete Fairclough. In 1996, Nikki won the John Dankworth Special Award at the BT British Jazz Awards and that same year recorded a duo CD, Treasure Trove, with Stan Sulzmann.
A year later, she recorded a duo CD with Tina May, Change of Sky, and a CD with Martin Speake, The Tan Tien. Following a serious car accident late one night after a gig, Nikki decided that it was time to make the move to London. Fortunately, a senior lectureship at Middlesex University became available and this eased the move. Composition still remained a major part of her musical life, and she had commissions from the Creative Jazz Orchestra for the "Printmakers Suite" (1994), celebrating the role of women in jazz, several from New Perspectives, in particular "In All My Holy Mountain" with poet Roger Garfitt (1998 - 2001), a piece for the London Sinfonietta Ellington Celebrations (1999), and Tim Garland’s Northern Underground Band (2006). Her education work was recognised through her nomination at the 2007 Parliamentary Jazz Awards for Services to jazz education. Read more on Last.fm.
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