Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Ana Popovic Burns Some Frets in Italy

What’s most striking about Serbian guitarist Ana Popovic’s new DVD An Evening at Trasimento Lake: Live from the Heart of Italy is that by the time the concert is halfway done, she hasn’t wasted any notes. That someone who plays as many of those notes, with as much abandon, would choose them so unpredictably and interestingly is pretty amazing.

From the brief interview included in the DVD’s bonus material, Popovic doesn’t like to be pinned down to one particular style. Here, it’s mostly blues and funk, but there’s also a jazzy piano ballad and a couple of catchy upbeat rock songs that sound like the early Police. She’s a star on the European concert circuit, and her big youtube hit U Complete Me (included in a particularly epic, organ-fueled version here) has won her an American fan base as well. Culled from two nights at a blues festival in an old castle in Perugia, it’s a studio-quality recording featuring her European touring band: Ronald Jonker on bass; Michele Papadia on keys; Andrew Thomas on drums; Cristiano Arcelli on tenor sax; Riccardo Giulietti on trumpet; Sandra LaVille on harmony vocals and Stephane Avellaneda on percussion. Stevie Ray Vaughan (in “on” mode, meaning the mature, drug-free SRV), is the obvious influence, guitarwise; vocally, Popovic goes for a sardonic/sarcastic style that reaches for a southern soul vibe: Jean Knight, maybe? But this is about the guitar, not the singing. All the way through the songs, there are gnats, or some kind of insect swarming the stage – an exasperated Jonker swats mightily at one at 19:50 into it – but the band don’t let the swarm stop them.

The first song, Wrong Woman (as in, “you’re messing with the wrong woman”) is a funk song. Papadia pitches in with a wink and grin on the lower registers of the clavinova, Sly Stone style, a feel that will recur again as Popovic snarls and burns through the passing tones, relentlessly yet judiciously. It’s counterintuitive, to say the least, and it’s breathtaking. Then she does the same with Is This Everything There Is, a rock song with more than a slight resemblance to Message in a Bottle.

Unlike a lot of other lead guitar stars, she’s proves not afraid of the lower registers on a growling version of the slide boogie blues How’d You Learn to Shake It Like That (lyrics are not usually her strong suit). The brisk soul shuffle Nothing Personal introduces the horns, with a tight, vicious guitar solo paired off against Papadia’s gritty clavinova again.

Shadow After Dark has Popovic blending Andy Summers spaciousness with David Gilmour rage, then they hit a plateau of sorts with another funk song and the most trad moment here, the bouncy blues Let Me Love You Babe. Popovic takes a break on the torchy piano ballad Doubt Everyone But Me, tosses off a pointless acoustic pop song but then regroups with a couple of strong, riff-driven numbers featuring swirling organ and more terse, incisive guitar fills. They bring it up all the way with a brisk, reworked version of The Fever, Popovic taking it to redline with casually vicious precision. The DVD ends with the night’s one semi-political number, Hold On, another funk song. Taken as a whole, much of this is a rare treat for guitar fans. Unfortunately, whoever did the cinematography must not be a guitarist: all too frequently, the camera cuts away from Popovic right as she’s about to do something exquisite. Did someone not tell him/her, it’s the fingers on the fretboard, not the picking, that every player wants to see? And the bonus acoustic tracks are strangely pastiched together and don’t add much of anything other than proving Popovic just effortlessly fast and impactful at open-tuned delta blues as she is with electric styles. It’s out now on Artist Exclusive.

December 8, 2010 - Posted by | blues music, funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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