HERE IT IS: A TRIBUTE TO LEONARD COHEN
- Norah Jones: Steer Your Way
- Peter Gabriel: Here It Is
(Leonard Cohen/Sharon Terea Robinson) –
- Gregory Porter: Suzanne
- Sarah McLachlan: Hallelujah
- Immanuel Wilkins: Avalanche
- Luciana Souza: Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen)
- James Taylor: Coming Back to You
- Iggy Pop: You Want It Darker
(Leonard Cohen/Patrick Leonard)
- Mavis Staples: If It Be Your Will
- David Gray: Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
- Nathaniel Rateliff: Famous Blue Raincoat
- Bill Frisell: Bird on The Wire
„Suzanne“, „Famous Blue Raincoat“, „Bird On The Wire“, „First We Take Manhattan“, das sind nur einige Leonard-Cohen-Songs, die schon lange als Klassiker gelten, immer wieder gehört und neu interpretiert werden. Auch nach dem Tod des Singer/Songwriters 2016 werden sie nicht in Vergessenheit geraten.
Jetzt hat sich eine Reihe großer Stimmen mit Persönlichkeit, unter Leitung des vierfachen GRAMMY-Gewinners Larry Klein, den Songs Leonard Cohens angenommen, die auf poetische Art existenzielle Fragen zu Liebe und Freundschaft, Leid und Spiritualität thematisieren. Cohens eigene Interpretationen, lässig, mit hingehauchter Stimme, haben Popgeschichte geschrieben. Die neuen Versionen von Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Gregory Porter, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, Mavis Staples und Kollegen greifen die Stimmung er berühmten Originale auf und erfinden sie neu. Mal kraftvoll und intensiv, mal melancholisch und zart.
Der Schriftsteller, Poet, Sänger und Songwriter, der auch als charismatischer „Ladies Man“ galt, war ein persönlicher Freund von Produzent Larry Klein: „Leonard war seit 1982 ein Freund von mir, und in den letzten 15 Jahren seines Lebens wurde er ein enger Freund. Er war möglicherweise der weiseste und lustigste Freund, den ich hatte, und jemand, dessen Anwesenheit ich in jeder Hinsicht immens genoss. Nach seinem Tod habe ich seine Songs häufig mit anderen Künstlern gecovert. Ein Grund ist natürlich, dass die Songs so gut sind – in gewisser Weise ist Leonard der beste Pop-Songwriter aller Zeiten -, aber der andere Grund war, dass es mir ermöglicht hat, ihn sozusagen um mich herum in der Luft zu halten.“
Jetzt beschloss Larry Klein, einige der besten Cohen-Songs für ein Album zusammen-zustellen und ausgewählte Sänger aus verschiedenen Genres mit einer außergewöhnlichen Kernband von Jazzmusikern zusammenzubringen: Gitarrist Bill Frisell, Saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, Pianist Kevin Hays, Bassist Scott Colley und Schlagzeuger Nate Smith, mit zusätzlichen Beiträgen von Greg Leisz an der Pedal-Steel-Gitarre und Larry Goldings an der Orgel.
Die zwölf Tracks bestehen aus Songs von Cohens legendärem Debüt „Songs of Leonard Cohen“ (1967) bis hin zu seinem letzten Album „You Want It Darker“, das nur wenige Tage vor seinem Tod im Jahr 2016 veröffentlicht wurde. Das Konzept erinnert nicht zufällig an das von Klein produzierte Herbie-Hancock-Album „River: The Joni Letters“ aus dem Jahr 2007, das den GRAMMY für das Album des Jahres gewann (und auf dem Leonard Cohen einer der Mitwirkenden war).
“Here It Is: A Tribute To Leonard Cohen” ist eine Sammlung stimmungsvoller Songs, die das Zeug hat, wie die Originale lange Zeit Wirkung zu entfalten. Ganz gleich ob man sich auf die hintergründigen Texte einlässt, oder sich allein der Musik und Atmosphäre hingibt.
“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 producer Larry 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 an extraordinary line-up of guest vocalists from different genres with an equally impressive group of jazz-based musicians—or, as he puts it, “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world.” The resulting collection, “Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen”, is ultimately reminiscent of the concept that guided his 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).
Bringing in artists such as Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Gregory Porter, Sarah McLachlan, Luciana Souza, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, Mavis Staples, David Gray, and Nathaniel Rateliff to collaborate with the core band— 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—Klein set out to create a more “conversational” musical setting for Cohen’s lyrics. “What I was endeavoring to do was to not get in the way of the poetry,” he says, “because that was something that bothered Leonard about a lot of the covers that were done of his music, and even with his own versions of the songs. So I was approaching it with the musicians in a way that hopefully served as more of an underscore, more cinematically, and not something that would obscure or in any way take attention away from the poems.”
The album’s 12 tracks offer a stunning range of Cohen’s compositions, with songs drawn from his beloved 1967 debut “Songs of Leonard Cohen” (“Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”) 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 (“Suzanne,” “Famous Blue Raincoat”) and less familiar deep cuts, all given new life through thoughtful and unexpected arrangements and performances. To add to the challenge, the album was recorded during lockdown, with voices laid down in studios from England to Chicago, Canada to Miami.
The ambitious project is just the latest achievement in Klein’s remarkable career. The producer/musician/songwriter/composer is a four-time GRAMMY winner and ten-time nominee. He has produced albums including “Turbulent Indigo” by Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman’s “Our Bright Future”; played bass with greats from Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter to Don Henley and Lindsay Buckingham, and written songs with such giants as Warren Zevon and Bonnie Raitt.
In assembling the line-up for “Here It Is”, Klein went to some singers with song suggestions, while others offered ideas of their own. “One of the most important things in the process is to find songs that the singers are passionately attached to,” he says. He points to Gabriel’s performance of the album’s title track—a relatively obscure selection from Cohen’s 2001 “Ten New Songs” album—as an especially satisfying combination.
“When I sent the song to him, he just glommed on to it,” says Klein, noting that Gabriel is someone with whom he has toured and recorded. “We immediately agreed that the approach would need to be very, very restrained, and what he did with it vocally was exactly what I had thought would suit interpreting the song—singing it as softly as humanly possible, almost like he’s speaking it into the listener’s ear.”
Of course, though the primary intent was to serve Cohen’s magnificent lyrics, Klein’s take on the material also inevitably highlights the songwriter’s often overlooked musicality. (“When people talk about Leonard,” Bob Dylan once said, “they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius.”)
“I always loved the simplicity of his musical approach,” Klein says. “The songs were in a way naive, or at least they gave the sense of a naivety. Leonard had a great sense of humor, and at times, his way of approaching his songs had a certain kind of perverse humor to it. I felt like there was some territory to be explored by looking at the songs through a looking glass, with that kind of skewed and almost humorous aspect to it.”
The melodic power of Cohen’s work comes out most strikingly in two instrumental recordings on “Here It Is”—“Avalanche,” led by Wilkins, and “Bird on the Wire,” featuring Frisell. “I love the intensity in the way ‘Avalanche’ turned out,” says Klein. “The lack of virtuosic jazz musicianship suited the lyric and puts it across in a way that feels appropriate. ‘Bird on the Wire’ felt like something that had to be on the record, and I had considered a number of different ideas, but nothing came together that felt right. Bill has such a beautiful, understated lyricism to his playing that just having him interpret that simple melody would be something touching. I feel like we got at something special with that.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the hardest song for Klein to cast was “Hallelujah,” Cohen’s best-known composition, which has become nothing less than a global anthem—its story was even the subject of both a recent book and a documentary. What’s left to do with a modern standard that has been recorded for hundreds of different renditions? “I thought about having a poet reciting above a track or in combination with one other instrument or something,” says Klein. “But in talking to Sarah McLachlan, I just sensed something. There was a passion there and a hunger to sing the song. She sang it as if her life depended on it, and there’s an elegant commitment to the song that that I think is lacking in a lot of the versions that I’ve heard.”
Klein didn’t always speak to the album’s contributors about what exactly Leonard Cohen meant to them, but he felt their reverence for this master of his form. “I think they all share my feeling that in the realm that Leonard was working in, he was the man, he was the guy, and that he got at something that was so powerful and elegantly ironic,” he says. “I got a sense of profound kindred respect and admiration from all of them.
“It was an immensely gratifying experience to recontextualize these poems, and shine a different light on them,” he 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.”
Rosita Falke Media Promotion
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Blue Note / Universal Music
CD 00602445659951 / LP 00602445659968
VÖ CD + DIGITAL: 14.10.2022
VÖ LP: 11.11.2022