May 28, 2024

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Interview with Tamuz Nissim: It’s all about the soul: Videos

Jazz interview with the jazz singer Tamuz Nissim. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Tamuz Nissim: – I grew up in Tel Aviv Israel, I was singing and playing piano for as long as I can remember We had a big music library at home. As a kid I was listening to everything from Bach to Israeli music to Billie Holiday, singing along and dancing. I started taking piano lessons when I was 6  and singing lessons at the age of14.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

TN: – From the moment I started singing I was already deep into Jazz vocals. My curiosity to hear and discover more music and singers just grew bigger as time passed. I even had an empty cassette ready and every time I heard something I liked on the radio I recorded it so that I could learn it later. One of the first solos I transcribed was Sarah Vaughans’ ‘All of me’ solo that I heard in the radio,  it blew my mind! From when I started singing I was fascinated by scat and soloing.  My piano teacher at the time, Amit Golan taught me  how to practice soloing with voice, as a horn player or any other instrumentalist would practice their instrument. Through the years I mostly worked on technique and sound with my vocal teachers.  Most of the things I know about Jazz singing I learned from listening  to records.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

TN: – I aim to sing with my speaking voice, to get a natural and honest sound.  Finding my personal sound is a beautiful journey and I’m still experiencing the joy of it  because  the human  voice is constantly changing and the technique is developing all the time.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

TN: – I practice both voice and piano daily except in times when my voice needs some rest.

Lately I’ve been working a lot with a tuner, singing long tones and intervals. Usually I try to sing everything I play and vice versa, in different tempos and always with the metronome. I also work on repertoire and transpose to several keys the songs I learn. As for soloing , except for transcriptions I sing a-capella the bass, arpeggios and impovise trying to direct my lines to the important notes of the chord or an interesting tension note. As far as  rhythm is concerned, I practice groupings and scales in the rhythm pyramid. In my previous album “Liquid Melodies” the guitarist George Nazos and I had many songs in odd meters and a lot of modulations inside the songs. This was challenging and fun to practice. I sang his song “Piroulita” (named after our cat) where the main riff is 12/8 to 11/8 and also an arrangement for “On a clear day” in 6/8 and 5/8.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

TN: – I always enjoy soloing over the ‘I’ degree going to ‘III7’, like in “Sunny side of the street”, it’s easy and fun. Besides that I enjoy chromaticism in the harmony and also when the melody note stays the same and the harmony changes, it creates a beautiful effect. It’s beautiful to hold a note while the chords are changing and the function of the note changes creating tension and release.


JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?

TN: – I enjoyed Ahmad Jamal’s ‘Marseille’ very much. I hope to get the chance to hear him in a concert.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

TN: – It’s all about the soul; the knowledge, technique and information we collect are  tools we use to express emotions and evoke feelings in the listeners. You can do it with lyrics, with sound and with rhythm , in a simple or sophisticated way but if there is no soul in it it’s meaningless.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

TN: – About a year ago I sat in for a song with a band at the 11th Street bar. Barry Harris was in the audience and later he called me to his table and said that I can really sing. That meant a lot coming from a man who has been a musical idol and a mentor for years.

Once in Greece I sang in an elderly care home;  the audience was mostly people with dementia and other health issues  and didn’t react much to the music until we started playing an old folk song they knew well and they all joined in singing. This was so touching I started to cry. Sometimes we forget the power that music has over people.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

TN: – I feel like the business is in the process of a change, with physical CDs sadly loosing value and streaming sites that pay very little are taking over; It’s not easy. I suggest, first of all, to stay loyal to your artistic truth.  Be active, friendly, professional and try to make good impression on people, fellow musicians, club owners etc. Also, to singers I would recommend to learn an instrument and to gain independence, so as not to depend on the musicians in your band for chords and arranging.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

TN: – It’s a difficult one for sure but the love of music makes up for the difficulty.

At the end of the day there will always be people who are interested in Jazz and improvised music. It is still a very young art form, which is constantly developing and also becoming more and more international. The interaction between the musicians on stage and the feeling of the audience that is listening to something that will never be played in the same way again is fascinating.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

TN: – I enjoy exposing myself to collaborations that take me out of my comfort zone and make me a better musician. I love working with the guitarist George Nazos. We’ve been playing together for 10 years and the music just keeps on getting better. He composes beautiful challenging songs that I was fortunate enough to sing and add lyrics to. Except for the quintet we also play a lot of duet which is a beautiful and intimate setting, almost nude in its exposure and vulnerability. George has a personal sound and he is a great listener, he really makes the guitar sing.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

TN: – I think it doesn’t matter how old the tunes are. The melodies are strong, the lyrics are beautiful and talk about timeless things like love.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

TN: – It’s all about the love. The spirit of love can move mountains. Good music lifts us up, gives us comfort, and makes us smile.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

TN: – I have no great fears or anxieties, I only wish for the people I love to be healthy and happy. I try to make the best of every day. I feel very grateful to make my living out of music. That is my greatest love. I also feel grateful to have love in my life and to be able to make music with my loved one. For sure I have some ups and downs, being a full time musician is not always easy, but the journey overall is very rewarding.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

TN: – I would bring melody and harmony back. They seem to have disappeared from today’s music. The music is so repetitive and there is no harmonic sense to it.  And the voices seem artificial with all the effects and auto tuning- all the beauty is gone. I don’t get why producers want all the voices to sound the same.  It’s such a personal magical instrument, each person is different. Then they add the effects and everybody sounds like a robot. I can’t stand it.

I would also get rid of the singing reality shows. I think it is doing a lot of harm, giving the wrong idea about what singing and more generally music is about.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

TN: – Just keep on getting better, explore feelings through sound and sing what’s in my heart.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

TN: – Yes, every kind of music has its roots in world music. It is a form of communicating, people have been traveling around the world for decades, and musical traditions, instruments and rhythms traveled with them.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

TN: – I have been listening to a lot of Abbey Lincoln lately, she is such an amazing song writer as well as  singer. Also Monk, John Scofield and a lot of Bill Evans. I saw a great concert of Russel Malone a while ago at the Jazz Forum. it’s a great club and I will present my CD there in April.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

TN: – I d’ like to go on an adventure with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The 1950s seem like an  interesting time in both music and in literature.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …

TN: – Ok Simon, what’s your favorite tune from “Echo of a heartbeat” and why?

JBN.S: – Thanks very much for answers. I have your CD “Echo of a heartbeat”. A from tracks I like Groovin’ High. This is in my humble opinion subjective 🙂

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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