Blue Note Records has announced a brilliant new tribute album to the late Leonard Cohen. Titled Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, the record will be released on October 14th, and it will be comprised of covers of some of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s best-loved tracks and some lesser-known cuts.
Produced by Larry Klein, this remarkable line-up of guests is 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,” Klein said. “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.”
Duly, Klein elected to assemble an album of Cohen songs, matching the wide variety of vocalists from different backgrounds with a core of jazz-based musicians, reimagining his songs. He describes them as “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world”.
The band is guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Nate Smith. There are also 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,” James Taylor explained. “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”.
Adding: “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 12 tracks on Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen are taken from across his career, from his 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen to 2016’s You Want It Darker, which was released only a matter of days before he died.
“It was an immensely gratifying experience to recontextualize these poems, and shine a different light on them,” Klein continued. “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.”
Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen tracklist:
- 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