Born in 1961, Dave was part of a musical family and given his first piano lessons at the age of seven. He was still in his teens when he began working jazz gigs around New Jersey with his father, soon convinced that music would be his life's work.
After high school, Kikoski would head to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where he would meet his wife and perfect his skills working with the Woody Herman Alumni Band. Following his graduation from Berklee in 1984, the pianist decided to try his hand in New York where it didn't take long for him to establish himself among the movers and shakers of one of the country's most vital jazz communities.
Drummer Roy Haynes would be the first to give Kikoski a break, leading to a productive association that lasts to this day. During his first few years on the New York scene , the pianist took advantage of the Haynes gig to network with other musicians leading to a wealth of recording opportunities with Ralph More, Randy Brecker, and Craig Handy, among others.
By 1989, Dave was ready to cut his first record as a leader. "Presage" featured a high-octane trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Al Foster and was soon followed by "Persistant Dreams", which was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame. Even at this early stage of the game, critical attention was immediately forthcoming. As writer Stuart Troup observed in his review of Kikoski's maiden voyage, "in a few short years he has blossomed into one of a handful of youngsters in demend in the jazz capital of the universe." It was clear too that the piano trio seemed to provide the ideal format for Dave's creative muse, being lucky enough to share the stage with bassists Ed Howard and James Genus and drummers Billy Hart and Ben Perowsky.
During the early '90s, Kikoski not only kept busy playing frequent gigs with Roy Haynes, but was also featured as a regular in the group of saxophonist Bob Berg. In 1994, a contract with the short-lived Sony Epicure label produced the self-titled "Dave Kikoski", with Essiet Essiet on bass and Al Foster on drums.
Over the next few years, Kikoski would perform as a sideman with an enviable cast of jazz luminaries including John Scofield, Brian Lynch, Peter Erskine, Red Rodney, Ravi Coltrane, Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Joe Henderson, Joey Baron, Dave Holland, Mike Stern, Chick Corea, Toots Thielemans, Victor Lewis, Tom Harrell, Gary Thomas, Marcus Miller, and Michael Brecker.