All That Jazz Funk

As he brings Electric Miles to The Whale on March 4th, band leader Mike Nielsen goes digging through his musical roots.

A cornerstone of not only jazz but funk, soul, bebop and beyond, Miles Davis is a hard man to pin down.

Which makes this Saturday’s musical undertaking at The Whale all the more admirable.

Entitled Electric Miles, hearty musicians Michael Buckley (sax), Mike Nielsen (guitar), Greg Felton (piano), Derek Whyte (bass) and Shane O’Donovan (drums, electronics) will take on the plugged-in early 1970s work of Miles Dewey Davis III. Miles going electric was a major shock in the jazz world, a move spearheaded by the 1970 double-album Bitches Brew, which managed to knock Miles’ own 1959 album Kind Of Blue off the no.1 spot in the all-time best-selling jazz albums chart.

Before their Miles love-in on Saturday, March 4th, we asked guitarist Mike Nielsen to let us know where and when that music bug first bit…

I was introduced to music by my parents who used to sing Danish folk songs in harmony while my father played guitar.

When I was three years old, he noticed that I keep the rhythm with them when I reached up to a small keyboard on a stand. He subsequently bought me a ukulele and was able to play it a the age of four. We used to play together. When he suggested we play
Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made For Walking, he used to get a great kick out of me going into a rage as I hated the song for some reason. I think it was the descending double bass part which drove me crazy. It didn’t fit into my musical reasoning at the time (and still doesn’t!).

I started playing guitar at the age of 12. Lessons were arranged as a barter. My grandmother was a sail maker so she made a sail for the teachers boat in return for lessons. Only got seven. He wrote out chord symbols of standard songs played and sang them once, and I had to learn them from memory. He wasn’t an improvisor.

My father also played bass and trumpet in a Dixieland band. I started at an early age playing with them. Later I played in various bands from the age of 12, playing 3 nights per week. Later I studied classical guitar with Niels Krogsbøll in Denmark and on return I travelled to Dublin to continue my studies which included theory with Dorothy Stokes and counterpoint with Dr Joseph Groocock.
Other studies include, Berklee College, Boston, 1983-85 (Jim Hall Incentive Award); LTCL in Classical Guitar Performance; MPhil in Physics and Music , DIT (First Award) and PhD in microtonal improvisation, UU (Vic-Chancellor Scholarship).



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