By MIKE CHAIKEN
In 2016, many artists are lucky if they release one or two albums in their lifetime before they return to a life solely based on pleasing fans on the road.
Few artists would have the ambition (or would be allowed) to release a double album in 2016.
But guitarist Ana Popovic, who was born in Belgrade, Serbia, released a triple album set on May 20, dubbed “Trilogy.”
The album finds the guitarist—who is coming to Connecticut to play at the Infinity Hall in Norfolk on June 11—recording 23 blues, jazz, and funk tunes. The album was produced by Grammy Award winner Warren Riker (Lauryn Hill, Carlos Santana), Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy), and Delfeayo Marsalis (Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis). It also includes guests such as guitar gunslinger Joe Bonamassa.
We caught up with Ana via email to talk about the new album and the tour.
OBSERVER: What inspired you to release so much music on ‘Trilogy?’
ANA: I came up with this idea a few years back when some of my fans would come to me and say: “I’ve made a compilation of your blues songs for myself and your jazz songs for a friend of mine who likes your jazzy side.” I thought- I could do this myself and make a theme record. My imagination went wild and i considered doing this on three different CDs. That way I can have something for my blues and rock fans and something for people who want to hear more – new and different music from me.
O: Was this a project that you intended to finish with so much material or was it a direction that grew as the muse guided you?
A: Many people put out these days double CDs- they go for the quantity: go in the studio record a bunch of songs, and put both what’s successful and what’s not on it. “Trilogy” was always about quality in the first place- then quantity. This was from the start three different projects, booked at three different sessions, three different producers, and three studios .and only the very successful takes that turned out exactly how I heard them beforehand – actually made it to “Trilogy.” There were more songs, more takes, but only the “cream” made Trilogy.
O: How did you go about deciding what tracks made the final cut?
A: I mostly know exactly what I want to hear in a song- exact groove, drum pattern, horn style- is it New Orleans horns is it Memphis horns, rhythm section, etc. some songs had more than one take – and more than one band. All the bands were great, but only one recording – the best in my opinion – made it to “Trilogy.” Some of the songs were in the making for more than four to five years and already had try outs and demos made, and they were closer than ever to their final cut. It was a matter of putting the right band to cut them.
O: Why do you feel this album is what fans are looking for?
A: I’ve been recording for 10 years now and most of my fans know that I won’t disappoint them in putting out some recycled stuff. I always tend to come up with something new, different, reinvent my self, at the same tine keeping the core of who I am as an artist. Respect the tradition but also break the rules— having a rapper on a song or collaborating with the high end jazz crew— but simply try what’s not been done: put out three CDs in the time when everyone’s listening to Spotify.
O: How does it fill your need to express yourself?
A: I finally created for myself (because I release my own records) something no record company nowadays would allow: showcase the capability to switch and deliver different sounding songs on the same release. I can- and I love to- switch between the styles- and I feel I’ve been preparing my audience for the fact that I can do that- for more than a decade.
O: The press release says the album includes blues, funk, and jazz… What do you personally like about each genre and how each genre affects how you attack your instrument?
A: They all derive from the blues. And that’s what I wanted to offer as a learning experience to the younger generation. I handpicked the jazz standards that are very bluesy and if you listen to Sarah Vaughn or Ella Fitzgerald or Wes Montgomery they all sounded very bluesy comparing to the modern jazz and fusion. I particularly love the bluesy side of jazz. All my other styles: funk, soul, rock also have strong blues background. But the most important discovery in the case of “Trilogy” is – it’s made to bring out three completely different sounds of myself and it’s recorded that way on purpose but at the same time volumes really fit well together- which just showcases that I as an artist can color all these styles of music and make it my own.
O: You’ve also been out on the road as part of the Experience Hendrix tour. As a guitarist, what do you admire most about Hendrix and how did his playing influence you as a player? What other players have influenced you through the years and why?
A: Hendrix is a huge influence. His playing is timeless. His lyrics and the way he handles guitar with feedback and those stages 50 years ago, just one man, plus guitar, plus a wall of amps, he could control the sound and make it work in an amazing way: his “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock is an art piece on itself—when the guitar does the talking instead of you. He gives his stand against the war just through his guitar. Other guitar players that influenced my playing are: Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King , Albert Collins, Django Reinhardt, John Scofield, Sonny Landreth, Elmore James, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and many more.
O: For the Infinity… what can fans expect?
A: I will be with my band and we’ll be playing the songs of “Trilogy.” The band is excited to play the new tunes and they sound awesome.
Ana Popovic performs at the Infinity Hall, Route 44, Norfolk on Saturday, June 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39 to $59.
For more information, go to InfinityHall.com or AnaPopovic.com