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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Here It Is: A Tribute To Leonard Cohen Out Now Performed By An Extraordinary Line-Up Of Vocalists

Blue Note Records/Universal Music Canada has released Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, a remarkable new album produced by Larry Klein that presents stunning renditions of the legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s profound songs performed by an extraordinary line-up of vocalists: Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Gregory Porter, Sarah McLachlan, Luciana Souza, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, Mavis Staples, David Gray, and Nathaniel Rateliff.

“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—in a certain way, Leonard is the best pop songwriter ever—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”—guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, 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.

The album’s 12 tracks offer a range of Cohen’s compositions, with songs drawn from his beloved 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen all the way up to selections from his final album, You Want It Darker, released just days before his death in 2016. The set covers 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 re-contextualize 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.”

The track listing for Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen is as follows:

  1. Steer Your Way - Norah Jones

  2. Here It Is - Peter Gabriel

  3. Suzanne - Gregory Porter

  4. Hallelujah - Sarah McLachlan

  5. Avalanche - Immanuel Wilkins

  6. Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye - Luciana Souza

  7. Coming Back to You - James Taylor

  8. You Want It Darker - Iggy Pop

  9. If It Be Your Will - Mavis Staples

  10. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy - David Gray

  11. Famous Blue Raincoat - Nathaniel Rateliff

  12. Bird on The Wire - Bill Frisell

* * *

There’s nobody like Leonard, not in the whole world.”—Iggy Pop

Anyone looking at an empty page trying to write a song lyric sits in the shadow of the mountain that was Leonard Cohen. He knew the exact weight and flavour of every word and phrase he used and applied them with the precision of a surgeon. His unique voice painted unforgettable pictures that will stay with me, and my generation, until we drop. I am delighted to be a part of Here it Is. Larry, I’ve known, worked with and respected for a long time and I knew he would create something special. He has assembled an extraordinary group of musicians, all wonderful players who know well both how to bring something to life and how to stay out of the way of a great song. I’m sure this record will pass the test of time.”—Peter Gabriel

When Larry Klein invited me to participate in a Leonard Cohen tribute album, I accepted immediately. Both because Larry is a great producer of excellent recordings and a good friend, and because, like almost everyone in my generation, I venerate Leonard Cohen. As soon as I began seeking out my own musical preferences, Cohen’s songs were among my few favorites and had a major influence on my own progression as a songwriter. For the project, I was drawn to a relatively obscure piece that was new to me, ‘Coming Back To You.’ Larry opted to cut the song in Cohen’s original key, which was certainly at the bottom of my own range. But somehow moving me out of my comfort zone helped me find my own approach to the song. Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s writing, this lyric resonates deeply with his forlorn and hopeless take on the bleak landscape of love and attachment. So, breathe a deep sigh and, drink up…”—James Taylor

Leonard Cohen has been a massive influence on me since I was very young. When I was asked to be a part of this project, I sent a huge list of songs that I wanted to do, honestly it was hard to pick. So many songs of his are my favorite songs of all time. ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ was one of my early Cohen favs. It was truly a pleasure to work with such great musicians on this arrangement and to have Larry Klein at the helm was just a treat.”—Nathaniel Rateliff

When I first heard Leonard Cohen’s songs, they stopped me in my teenage tracks. I felt like I’d discover a music from another time, outside of time even. The songs seemed less like songs and more like poems or prayers with the guitar chords and musical atmospheres somehow embedded in them. They felt immediately familiar but also ancient, like they’d always been there. There was just this compelling contrast between the lavish, coruscating language and imagery and the droll and deadpan voice that delivered it. I was instantly hooked. Each listen seemed like a voyage of discovery into the starlit but shadowy world of adult experience, where sensual mysteries were bound to dark truths. Leonard was one of the greats and his songs will stand forever like carved stones in the land. To be able to sing ‘Nancy’ and be a part of this album of tribute and celebration, was not only a great pleasure, but a real honour too.”—David Gray

I once read that the purpose of poetry is to deepen the humanness in us. Leonard’s poems certainly do that. With Larry’s producing and this incredible landscape of artists and musicians, we are invited to a quiet and powerful reconnection with our humanity… something much needed these days.”—Luciana Souza

Truly an honour to sing the words and melody of a master craftsman of song. I’ve long admired his wit, wisdom and courage that’s all in the music.”—Gregory Porter

I loved singing ‘Steer Your Way’ because it’s a newer one but has all the best qualities of some of his older classic songs.”—Norah Jones

I’d like to thank Larry Klein for inviting me to take part in this project and for bringing together this wonderful family of musicians. That’s what it felt like from the first moment. Family. Larry set up a world for us where we could all be ourselves. Take chances. Trust. No one was afraid of making a mistake. That’s how the light gets in. It’s been super inspiring having this opportunity to go deeper into Leonard Cohen’s music. These are songs we all need right now.”—Bill Frisell

I'm so happy to be a part of this project honouring Leonard Cohen’s music. Especially as a young person I think I can speak to the timelessness of his work, he has written music that has served as classics for generations and generations. I remember hearing ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Suzanne’ at my middle school talent show in 2010, people were singing these songs like they were the newest thing on the radio.”—Immanuel Wilkins


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