Blue Note Records has announced an October 14 release date for 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 guest 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.
“When Larry Klein invited me to participate in a Leonard Cohen tribute album, I accepted immediately,” says James Taylor. “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 favourites 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…”
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 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.”
Hear Taylor’s sublime version of “Coming Back to You” which is available to stream or download today. Here It Is can be pre-ordered now on D2C exclusive color vinyl, black vinyl, CD, or digital download.
The track listing for Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen is as follows:
- Steer Your Way – Norah Jones
- Here It Is – Peter Gabriel
- Suzanne – Gregory Porter
- Hallelujah – Sarah McLachlan
- Avalanche – Immanuel Wilkins
- Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye – Luciana Souza
- Coming Back to You – James Taylor
- You Want It Darker – Iggy Pop
- If It Be Your Will – Mavis Staples
- Seems So Long Ago, Nancy – David Gray
- Famous Blue Raincoat – Nathaniel Rateliff
- Bird on The Wire – Bill Frisell