Live Reviews: Mike Nielsen and Louis Winsberg

Alliance Française, Dublin, 3 February 2006 As part of a drive to promote leading figures in Irish jazz, 2006 sees the Improvised Music Company running a series of concerts that feature an Irish musician performing in a complimentary international setting....

Alliance Française, Dublin, 3 February 2006

As part of a drive to promote leading figures in Irish jazz, 2006 sees the Improvised Music Company running a series of concerts that feature an Irish musician performing in a complimentary international setting. Mike Nielsen is the featured soloist in this inaugural year, the guitarist’s experience and technique – and the fact of his forays into almost every corner of jazz and contemporary music making – making him the ideal partner for such a venture.

The series starts with a collaboration with French flamenco/jazz guitarist Louis Winsberg. Winsberg has been hailed as having successfully fused jazz improvisation into the flamenco style while not losing sight of, or the respect of, either tradition. As for a French man playing flamenco? Winsberg explains it as always having a love for Spanish folk music. In his early years he use to jam with the now famous Gypsy Kings.

The concert started with each player performing entirely solo. Nielsen was first up and played nylon strung classical guitar. Contrary to the more angular electric guitar playing style that I was used to, this performance gave us Nielsen playing in a more sensitive way, taking his time to navigate through dense chordal textures. The musical way in which he achieves this is one of his real strengths as a performer and improviser.

An original composition followed (‘Montuno Africano’), a Latin-style piece that showcased Nielsen’s right-hand technique to its fullest, demonstrating clear rhythmic command of Latin guitar style.

Guest performer Louis Winsberg took to the stage next, again playing completely solo. Starting with a sparsely decorated melody, and just hints at the underlying tonality, he worked through a theme which eventually grew into a bright flamenco tune that clearly showcased his right hand ‘bounce’ which gave the music an infectious Spanish feel.

When the musicians came together on stage they started with the Miles Davis’ classic ‘Nardis’ – which uses movements not dissimilar to Spanish folk music – and the guitarists made ample use of Spanish folk modalities in their playing. The French gypsy guitar tradition was also in evidence in the second piece, Django Reinhardt’s ‘Nuages’, Reinhardt being a virtuoso of French gypsy guitar. Considering this is Winsberg’s home turf, so to speak, I was happily surprised to hear Nielsen develop a more idiomatically focused solo than the French guitarist, whom nevertheless provided a super example of comping in the style of the great Django.

Special guest Tommy Halferty featured at the end on the Luiz Bonfa composition ‘A Day in The Life’, which saw fine solos from each performer and ended in ‘simultaneous solos’ – all three playing improvisations that developed a beautiful contrapuntal texture.

Published on 1 March 2006

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