Initially conceived as a vocal and instrument free-jazz ensemble, this product of the South London Oval Arts Lab was brought together in 1971 by vocalist Maggie Nicols and Harry Vince (trumpet) and also comprised Brian Eley (b. 22 June 1952, Hackney, London, England; vocals), Dave Mitchell (tenor saxophone), Chris Francis (alto saxophone, congas), Frank Roberts (electric piano), Georg Jensen (bass), David Nash (drums) and Mike Cousins (trombone). After performing on the London jazz circuit to critical acclaim, this extremely weighty line-up collapsed and folded in 1972. Three years later the band name re-emerged for the purposes of an appearance at the Polish Jazz Festival, only this time stripped down to an a cappella quartet comprising Nicols and Eley plus the introduction of Julie Tippetts (a former comrade of Nicols in Keith Tippett’s Ark) and singer Phil Minton (b. 2 November 1940, Torquay, Devon, England; ex-Mike Westbrook).
The group lasted barely 18 months, but recorded one album, live at the Phoenix jazz club in London’s Cavendish Square in 1977. A major source of inspiration came from African musical culture and the use of Nicols’ ‘non-language’. This gave the sound an original dimension with the track ‘Yilf Kofla’ wonderfully capturing their technique. This eclecticism prompted the noted jazz critic Brian Case to state: ‘Jazz? Gawd knows - but check it out. More arresting than Jack Warner!’. With the exception of Tippetts, Voice were also used in the recording of Ken Hyder’s group Talisker’s 1977 album, Land Of Stone. Brian Eley retired to the world of graphic art while the remaining three continued to explore free jazz.