Tamuz Nissim grew up in Israel playing the trumpet, but during a school recital she sang, and everyone knew her voice would be the instrument to carry her far. Referred to as the girl with the cat eyes, she is known for her velvety vocals over classic melodies.
The inspiration for her latest album, “Liquid Melodies,” is New York, where she has found a new outlook on life and love.
Nissim will take the Rialto Center for the Arts stage with three other acts at International Jazz Day on Sunday, April 30, as part of the 40 Days of Jazz, a prelude to the Atlanta Jazz Festival on Memorial Day weekend.
AJT: How did you cultivate an interest in jazz?
Nissim: There is a lot of jazz in Israel. I particularly grew up listening to jazz and classical music. Jazz is a familiar sound in Israel. I grew up playing classical piano, and when I sang one song, it was apparent I should use my voice. I was drawn to jazz at a young age.
AJT: What artists most influence your work?
Nissim: I listened to Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Patricia Barber. Also, I like a lot of instrumentals. I was always trying to find my personal voice, so I would take things away that I liked about each of them.
AJT: What did you take away from Sarah Vaughan?
Nissim: She takes a lot of freedom in the way she sings the melodies and improvisation. She knew every detail of the music and the rhythm. The feelings she brings and the way she tells her personal stories through music make her vulnerable.
AJT: How long have you lived in New York? And how do you like it?
Nissim: For about 2½ years I was going back and forth between Israel and New York City and then decided to move. Jazz is definitely the soundtrack of the city, and you can walk down the street and hear music. In Europe you go to a concert or show and see jazz artists; here you meet them casually. It’s inspiring for writers and composers. You come across more opportunities, and the collaborations really develop a lot in New York City. I’ve collaborated with Willie Applewhite, an amazing trombone player, and Harvie S, a great bass player.
AJT: How is “Liquid Melodies” different from your last album?
Nissim: It is named after one of the first songs I wrote when I moved to New York. So the last album, I was writing songs from when I was living in Holland. I was affected by the weather and it raining all the time. “Liquid Melodies” is about finding what’s important in life and loving life. It’s about love and music and how music can make the world a better place.
AJT: What will you be performing at International Jazz Day?
Nissim: It is an hour-long concert, so I will be playing 10 or 11 songs. Some will be from my new and old albums, and I will also be performing other jazz standards that I like.
AJT: You have a classic jazz voice that is blended with contemporary rhythms. Is that purposeful, or does it happen organically?
Nissim: Being a singer, you work on your instrument for years. You work on your own sound. The sound happens organically. I don’t try to color my voice to sound more jazzy or less jazzy.
AJT: Jazz is American-grown, but it is played internationally. What do you feel gives it fluidity?
Nissim: What is beautiful about this music is that it has improvisation and expression. You see a lot of jazz bands play groups like Radiohead. This kind of aspect can make it international. People also take a lot of folk songs and play them to jazz melodies. I did a jazz arrangement for Golden Earring and gave it a little more of an oriental feel.
What: International Jazz Day
Where: Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St., downtown
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 30