Mike graduated in Physics and Music (microtonal guitar system and development and composition (MPhil 2003, Physics Dept., Dublin Institute of Technology (link: https://arrow.dit.ie/scienmas/27/). He received a First Award for his interdepartmental research and in 2015 Emmy award winning guitarist, John Schneider, featured Mike’s research in his publication The Contemporary Guitar. In 2012, he was awarded a ViceChancellor Scholarship to study improvisatory-based microtonal development and performance, which included developing a microtonal guitar system and a collaboration with a vocalist (PhD 2017, Ulster University, Derry, N. Ireland). Previously, Mike received a scholarship and Jim Hall Incentive award to attend Berklee College of Music, Boston (1983-85), and he holds a diploma in classical guitar performance (Licentiate of Trinity College of Music, London, 1994). In 2008, he initiated a Masters in Jazz Performance programme which he coordinates at the Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin Institute of Technology (first in Ireland). Since 2006, he has been involved with the Sligo International Summer School and Jazz Festival as a tutor, performer and ensemble director. A study of rhythmic concepts led to workshops in odd-metre performance at Berklee College of Music, Boston, New School, New York and Tufts University, Boston (1994). Consequently, he published a book on rhythm, which includes six original compositions (Precision Timing for All Instruments: The Ultimate Rhythm Workout, Schott, Germany, 2016). Mike’s performance interests comprise a wide range of contemporary, world musics and interdisciplinary projects. His first jazz performance experience was with a Dixieland Group. Since returning from Berklee College in 1986, he has performed extensively in Ireland and abroad and has toured and recorded with Dave Liebman, Pat LaBarbera, and Karnataka College of Percussion, India with Turkish percussionist, Okay Temiz. Some of his other performance credits include the world premieres of Ronan Guilfoyle‘s Concerto for Jazz Guitar Trio and Orchestra (1994) and Parabola for RTE Concert Orchestra which was conducted by Jim McNeely and featured Joe Lovano (live recording for Lyric FM, 2000) and The Music of Duke Ellington, RTE Concert Orchestra with Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, Anders Bergcantz and Norma Winstone (presented as part of Dublin 1991 European City of Culture). Furthermore, as a solo guitarist Mike has performed on the same bill as John McLaughlin (first visit to Dublin, 2008) and opened for Elvin Jones at the ESB Dublin Jazz Festival (2000); with Dave Liebman he toured Europe and was headline act at Wangaratta Jazz Festival, Australia (2004) and in 2009 he performed at the Cork Jazz Festival with Dominique Di Piazza and Paul Wertico. Interdisciplinary projects include: improvised music with singer Ellen Demos for an audiovisual presentation in Portland, Maine, in aid of Alasksawild Foundation (2006) and improvised music in response to original art by Anne McManus at the Cherry Lane Arts Centre, Wicklow (2007).
As an offshoot of his PhD research, he formed a microtonal trio, Crimo Trio, and performed on the same bill as Jeff Ballard’s Fairgrounds for Note Productions, 2015. Most recent performances include the Galway Jazz festival in duo with Simon Nabatov and as a solo guitarist; Cork Jazz Festival with saxophonist Andy Middleton; the Sligo International Summer School and Jazz Festival with Virgil Donati, Steve Hamilton, Paul Clarvis and John Goldsby and a recording and video in Abby Road Studios with Irish Singer Sibéal for Universal Records. Mike features on 19 recordings as leader and sideman and recently release a 2nd solo CD, Solo Sound Recipes: Improvisations, for Model Citizen records (www.modelcitizenrecords.com), in addition to, a video featuring microtonal guitar and voice (PhD project: https://youtu.be/dpUq2eMjVuY), and a new live microtonal recording (Arts Council Project Award) Crimo Quartet, https://youtu.be/ENw6QUb---8 As a composer Mike was commissioned by Newpark Comprehensive School to compose music for choir celebrating their 25th anniversary (1997), the Kilkenny Arts Festival to compose for jazz quintet featuring trumpeter Guy Barker (2001) and the Ulster University Classical Department to compose music for guitar quartet (2004), by Temple Bar Properties to compose for jazz quintet, featuring Jason Moran (2003) and on two occasions to compose for the Improvised Music Company’s octet TIME (1997).
Six of his original compositions feature in the publication Dublin Jazz Book (2014) and over 100 of his works are registered with the Irish Music Rights Organization; many feature on his recordings. While Mike writes for various ensembles as leader, he is currently the recipient of an Arts Council Project Award to assist with the development of his microtonal group the Crimo Trio. What the critics say: “Guitarist Mike Nielsen is certainly one of the most innovative European jazz musicians of his generation”. Irish Times (2018) “A new age of jazz is being spawned by an exciting and innovative crop of Irish musicians...the spadework was done by pioneering musicians such as Mike Nielsen.” Sunday Times (2016) “Mike Nielsen is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of Europe’s most distinctive and iconoclastic guitar voices, equally innovative on electric and acoustic guitars.” Sunday Tribune “I have always loved Mike’s unusual approach to guitar and music in general. Truly a unique, one of a kind voice, the music here burns with creativity and passion”. Solo guitar CD sleeve note by Dave Liebman ...sort of chops that lead many to consider him as the best guitarist in Ireland.” Ian Patterson, All That Jazz (2015). Michael features on over fifteen recordings including two with Dave Liebman. Teaching since 1979, he lectures worldwide on jazz guitar, improvisation and microtonal composition.