Sietske Roscam Abbing is a storyteller in words and music. The new album Leaving Traces is – like the debut album (Where It Starts Again) a collaboration between Sietske as a lyricist and Dirk Balthaus, one of Germany’s finest pianists, as the composer of most the music (partly together with Sietske). The band is complemented by superb musicians: Marco Zenini (double bass), Eran Har Even (guitar) and Efraim Schulz-Wackerbarth (drums).
“I always have in mind that I want a song to tell some kind of a story,” Sietske explains, “words that are supported, by the musical arrangement. I’ve spent many afternoons with Dirk. Sometimes I’ll have a lyric or a melody with,words and we’ll elaborate on that, working out the rest of the music. Mostly we start from a musical idea, a,melody, a chord progression or a rhythm. It begins with a certain mood, which relates to the core of a story and,evolves from there.”,One senses from Dirk that the creative process can sometimes be infuriating but highly productive, “I think we’re,a really great team. I love the lyrics, especially the late ones that come in one day before the recording. They’re so,much in the moment, in the here-and-now.” He sees Sietske as “…not holding back her inner world. I’ve always,liked the gentle sound of her voice and her curiosity. But now there is more confidence in her musical ideas. Her,phrasing has become more clear and free. I also hear more power and expression.”
As with many tracks on the new CD, Chasing Rainbows has pace and rhythm in its composition and is,complemented by Sietske’s beautiful diction and poetic storyline. “That’s the first track of the CD,” explains Dirk.,“It’s about being young. Since I’m 20 years older than the other band members, I really love that. Go into the park,,see what’s happening, enjoy the day. Follow your dream. That makes me feel young again, I love it.” Sietske’s,view of the piece is a little different, “It’s cheesy when I explain it. You have moments when you think, oh, this is,just perfect, a summer day, everything is great, then immediately afterwards you think, everything can be worse,after this and you wish you could hold onto it, imprint the feeling of it in your brain so you’ll be able to feel like,this again.”
Clarity is a complex interplay of instruments, voice and lyrics. Sietske says, “It’s about waking up in the morning,after something very intense has happened. Now there’s a pregnant tranquility, in which the experience that has,passed has left you with a completely new perspective. This moment is full of possibility, like a clean sheet of,paper. Clarity is one of my favorites. I really like the vibe, it’s very different from the other tunes.” Dirk explains,,“Clarity, started as a swing tune, which I think would also work… then the band said, it doesn’t fit with the rest of,the repertoire, let’s give it a different feel, more of a singer-songwriter style. Then Eran, the guitarist, started to,play the chords in a way that I liked very much. The melody and the harmonies are still the same, but the whole,vibe is different now.”
Let the Rain Come is based on a Yiddish folk song. Sietske says, “It’s an arrangement of an existing melody called In der Finster [In the Darkness]. It’s about how darkness creates a space which allows us to be vulnerable. Dirk elaborates, “I heard this from a singer-song writer from the former East Germany – Bettina Wegner. I like the,melody very much. It’s a Jewish love song. I presented it to Sietske, without telling her what it’s about. She took,it and wrote lyrics, capturing the intimacy. Sietske says, “It’s about not having to disguise anything, feeling like,you can be real towards someone or in a situation.”
Recent reviews highlight the qualities of Sietske & Band: “Refined in its detail, playful in its arrangements, honest, endearing and intimate, light shines when Sietske and her band are playing…” Frank Huser, Jazzfits.,“She’s got all the technique and knows how to use it in a very musical, subtle way… Her core-skill is,communication from the heart…” Jan Jasper Tamboer /Jazzenzo.,“…a beautiful voice and excellent compositions… unique…” Noah Preminger.
Dirk Balthaus, the elder statesman of the group, himself a brilliant pianist, and involved with other successful,musical constellations, sums up: I feel this band, this project is part of myself. I’m happy and honoured to play,with these great musicians and to get the trust of Sietske to do this.
Sietske & Band are touring the new album Leaving Traces at nine venues in April 2017, including: Jazzkeller in Dinkelsbühl, M8 in Mainz, Tonhallle in Hannover, JäzzZeit in Cologne, Wilhelm 13 in Oldenburg, Caffe Dolce in Göppingen and HFL in Bremen. Watch out for the new CD, and get along to one of the concerts. You won’t be disappointed.