Producer Larry Klein pays tribute to his friend Leonard Cohen with an album that presents stunning new renditions of the legendary singer-songwriter’s compositions performed by an extraordinary line-up of vocalists including James Taylor, Nathaniel Rateliff, Norah Jones, Gregory Porter, Iggy Pop.
The guest artists on Here It Is: A Tribute To Leonard Cohen are backed by what Larry Klein calls “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world.” The album’s 12 tracks offer a broad range of Leonard Cohen’s songs drawn from his 1967 debut Songs Of Leonard Cohen through his final album, You Want It Darker.
Iggy Pop checks in with a resonating new version of “You Want It Darker,” the unforgettable title track of the Cohen’s final album released in 2016. “There’s nobody like Leonard, not in the whole world,” said Pop. It’s just one of the singles from Here It Is: A Tribute To Leonard Cohen, and previously released singles include “Coming Back To You” by James Taylor, “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Nathaniel Rateliff, “Steer Your Way” by Norah Jones, and “Suzanne” by Gregory Porter.
Here It Is also features contributions from Peter Gabriel, Sarah McLachlan, Luciana Souza, Mavis Staples, and David Gray. The vocalists are accompanied by an exceptional band featuring saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Nate Smith, with additional contributions from Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar and Larry Goldings on organ.
“Leonard Cohen had been a friend since 1982 or so, and in the last 15 years of his life, he became a close friend,” says Klein. “He was possibly the wisest and funniest friend that I had, and someone that I enjoyed, immensely, in every way. After he passed away, I found myself frequently covering his songs with other artists that I was working with. One reason, of course, is that the songs are so good, but the other reason was that it helped keep him in the air around me.”
So Klein decided to assemble an album’s worth of Cohen songs, matching vocalists from different genres with an exceptional core band of jazz-based musicians. Or, as he puts it, “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world.”
The album’s 12 tracks offer a range of Cohen’s compositions, covering some of his best-known classics and less familiar deep cuts, all given new life through thoughtful and unexpected arrangements and performances. The resulting collection is ultimately reminiscent of the concept that guided Klein’s production of Herbie Hancock’s 2007 album River: The Joni Letters, which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and on which one of the featured singers was, in fact, Leonard Cohen.
“It was an immensely gratifying experience to recontextualize these poems, and shine a different light on them,” Klein continues. “I hope that this musical language that we developed together, the context that we put these things in, makes the songs connect with people in a new way.”