Larry Klein, on Bass, Featuring in Joni Mitchell’s ‘Shine’ for Making The Album’s First Arrives on Vinyl
Craft Recordings is pleased to announce the very first drop of the best-selling album from Joni Mitchell, Shine in 2007.
Available 3 April 2015 and pressed on RTI’s 180-gram vinyl, the well-known title contains songs like the 2008 GRAMMY ® Award for Best Instrumental Pop Performance (“One Week Last Summer”) and an updated version of the classic 1970 “Big Yellow Taxi” track by Mitchell.
Shine (2007) was the self-produced one-off of Joni Mitchell for the Starbucks Hear Music label.
Shine is to date the last Joni Mitchell album and after a decade of downtime, it is often lifted to the level of a masterpiece.
The arrangements on Shine have some natural consistency, as Mitchell returned to acoustic guitar and piano after such a long break.
The band of like-minded workers is also floating. They were made of minimal casts, such as Larry Klein, the former Mitchell husband, on bass, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Bob Sheppard on saxophone and old flame, James Taylor and the percussionist Paulinho da Costa.
Each of the many unforgettable songs on the album adds a special ingredient. Shine’s vinyl version is preferred to play with a decent record player with inbuilt speakers to experience it natural arrangements quality.
61st Annual GRAMMY Awards (2018)
Nominations: Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical
Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical
59th Annual GRAMMY Awards (2016)
Nominations: Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals
Somewhere (Dirty Blvd) (Extended Version)
It has been a very busy 2015. Larry has just completed mixing the new Ana Moura album for Universal Portugal with Tim Palmer. It was tracked at Henson Studios with vocals and overdubs at Village Studios.
Ana is the premier fado singer in Portugal, and this is the second album that Larry has done with her, the first being “Desfado”, which is 5x platinum in Portugal. The new album entitled “Moura” will be released on Nov. 27 in Portugal.
Before that he worked on and completed an album entitled “Freedom And Surrender” with Concord artist Lizz Wright. Lizz wrote the album with co-writers Jesse Harris, Toshi Reagon, David Batteau and Larry.
Larry also finished Blue Note artist Kandace Springs’ debut album “Soul Eyes” which will be released in June 2016.
2016 began with a trip to the Grammys, as Larry was nominated for Producer Of The Year for the second time.
Discography & Store
Freedom & Surrender
Speaking In Tongues
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The first part of the year has also been filled with finishing work on classical virtuoso Lang Lang’s “The New York Album”. Also, Larry is working on an album for Impulse/ Universal that will be centered around the compositions of Charlie Parker. It will be a project that endeavors to shed a new light on the songs that he wrote, in some cases by simply recontextualizing musically, and in some cases by putting lyrics to existing melodies.
Larry is also doing some preproduction and writing in preparation for a new album project with Norwegian singer and songwriter Thomas Dybdahl.
Just did a horn date for the Melody Gardot album with Jerry Hey arranging and going up to Skywalker Ranch to do orchestra with French composer/ arranger Clement Ducol arranging. Working with Lizz Wright on pre-production for her album, on which it looks like we will start recording in January. Also beginning pre-production on an album with the great pianist Lang Lang for Sony Masterworks.
Another project that is in the beginning stages is an album for Impulse/ Universal of Charlie Parker’s songs, recontextualized and reset by an incredible group of vocalists, musicians and writers. More on this very soon. Had the pleasure of re-discovering East West studios, working in studio 2 tracking with the great English soul singer Lemar and tracking horns in studio 3. East West is in the building that originally housed United Western studios. A lot of legendary records have been made in those rooms and you can hear why.
This month Larry is writing with an artist who’s album he will be producing later this year, Lizz Wright. Lizz is an extraordinary singer and songwriter who is signed to Verve/ Universal. He is working on completing tracking on an album for Melody Gardot, which also will be released by Verve/ Universal here in the US. This will be the second album that Larry has done with Melody; the first being “My One And Only Thrill”. He is completing mixing J.D. Souther’s album for Sony Masterworks, and is also beginning pre-production on a project for the classical piano virtuoso Lang Lang.
Another project that he will record during August will be a children’s album for Parker Bent, who is a music teacher/ singer-songwriter, and “child whisperer” that Larry has come to know through his work at Palisades Pre-School in Santa Monica, Ca. Plans are coming together for an album with the great Rickie Lee Jones, and recording on that project will begin soon.
Larry is busy finishing up last mixing work on a new album with the great J.D. Souther for Sony Masterworks. J.D. is an artist that Larry has wanted to work with for many years. Pre-production work has been going on in conjunction with a new project with Melody Gardot for Decca UK/ Verve US, and he will be going into the studio next week to begin tracking on it. “Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”, the album that Larry finished recently with Billy Childs will be released on Sept. 9.
The album features re-contextualizations of Laura’s songs, and guest vocalists on the project include Rickie Lee Jones, Renee Fleming, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, Dianne Reeves, Becca Stevens, Ledisi, Lisa Fischer, Susan Tedeschi, and Esperanza Spalding, along with guest soloists Wayne Shorter, Chris Botti, Yo-Yo Ma, and Jerry Douglas. Larry is readying to begin a project with Rickie Lee Jones, who is an artist who’s work has been an inspiration to Larry for many years.
Larry is also in pre-production on a new album project with Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang, and is writing with the incredible Lizz Wright for an album that they will be working on later this year. Bobby Bazini, a Canadian singer and songwriter whose album Larry produced recently, entered the Canadian album charts at #1 and will be released shortly through Larry’s label Strange Cargo/ Manhattan/ Capitol in the U.S. Swedish singer and songwriter Anna Bergendahl’s album “Something To Believe In” is finished, and the single will be released along with an EP very shortly, while the album will be released in the U.S. in early 2015.
Look out for the first single title “For You”, a song written by Anna and Swedish producer/ songwriter Tobias Froberg. Strange Cargo artist Thomas Dybdahl will be returning to the U.S. to continue live shows and press in late Sept. -Oct. Listen for the single “This Love Is Here To Stay” on KCRW and NPR, both of which have championed the recently released album “What’s Left Is Forever”. Larry will also be producing a new album by amazing children’s artist Parker Bent shortly. Parker is a phenomenon; a true “child whisperer”. More to come about this shortly.
Laura Nyro Project
On my way to NYC to put the great Susan Tedeschi on the Laura Nyro project that I have been working on with Billy Childs. Getting ready to start a record with the great singer and songwriter J.D. Souther. Also working on a new project with my pal Shawn Colvin.
We’ve made records together and toured together for years, and she always kills me. The Real Deal. We’ve just released the House Of Lies Soundtrack Album on Strange Cargo/ Capitol, and have an album by the great English tenor Alfie Boe coming out shortly. Also working on finishing mixing an album for an incredible young Swedish artist named Anna Bergendahl that will come out on Strange Cargo later this year, an upcoming project with Rickie Lee Jones, and a great new jazz vocalist from Denmark named Indra.
She just moved back to US from Denmark, where she has already made a name for herself. She has an amazing band of Danish musicians, and we are making a very special record. Other than that, trying to memorize every book by Samuel Beckett.
Thomas Dybdahl’s new Strange Cargo album
Thomas Dybdahl’s new Strange Cargo album titled “What’s Left Is Forever” continues to be top ten in his native Norway, while the single “This Love Is Here To Stay” is also top ten. The album is just out in Europe and UK, and Tim Bran is now doing a radio mix of the single for the UK. Florence K’s new album “I’m Leaving You” entered the Quebec charts at #2 and the Canadian charts at #15.
Both albums will be out in the US in early 2014. After completing the new album titled “Trust” for Decca UK artist Alfie Boe, Larry is now mixing a project with Universal Canada singer and songwriter Bobby Bazini with Tim Palmer. Bobby is a young 24 year-old artist who sings and writes with the gravitas of someone twice his age. Having grown up listening to Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye, it has been good fun for him to have the great Booker T, as well Motown Funk Brother Jack Ashford on the sessions for his album.
Larry is also in the middle of sessions for the Sony Masterworks project “Reimagining Laura Nyro” which he is working on with composer/ arranger/ keyboardist Billy Childs. Artists such as Renee Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Rickie Lee Jones, Chaka Khan, Chris Botti, Dianne Reeves, Lisa Fischer, Shawn Colvin and others are participating in this of re-contextualizations of Laura Nyro’s incredible songs.
Slated for April-May 2014 release, this album will utilize a chamber-jazz ensemble along with string quartet and additional soloists. Larry also goes into November continuing to work on songs for a new album that he will be producing with legendary singer and songwriter J. D. Souther.
After finishing producing Madeleine Peyroux’s acclaimed “The Blue Room” as well as Portuguese fado star Ana Moura’s “Desfado”, Larry has been finishing final work on “What’s Left Is Forever”, the first newly written album for Norwegian recording artist Thomas Dybdahl since signing with Strange Cargo/ Universal. He has also been finishing an album that he has co-written and produced with Florence K for her next Universal release. Ryan Freeland engineered the sessions, Tchad Blake is mixing, and songwriting collaborators include David Baerwald, David Batteau and David Poe. Players on the album include Jay Bellerose, Jamie Muhoberac, Dean Parks, David Piltch and others.
Larry has also been working with Ryan Freeland engineering on tracking a new album for French icon Eddy Mitchell. The sessions for this album brought together musician greats such as Steve Cropper, Booker T., Funk Brother Jack Ashford, Lee Sklar, Billy Payne and Fred Tackett from Little Feat, Matt Rollins, Gabe Witcher, Matt Chamberlain, Iconic Nashville musicians Charlie McCoy and Russ Hicks, Dean Parks and Vinnie Colaiuta.
June finds Larry traveling to Paris to do finishing work on the album. Writing has begun for an album that he will be producing later this year with another artist that Larry has always deeply respected, iconic songwriter J.D. Souther. He is also involved in pre-production for a Sony Masterworks album of Laura Nyro’s songs, on which he will be collaborating with one of his oldest friends who he has played with and known since high school, musician and composer Billy Childs.
The album is the culmination of a mutual love of Nyro’s music that Klein has shared with Childs. Nyro approached Klein regarding working together on an album shortly before she passed away. In amongst all of this Klein will be doing a record for U.K. star Alfie Bo. Alfie is a household name in the U.K., having worked with Baz Luhrmann on his production of La Boheme, as well as singing with Robert Plant on one of his own albums.
He will also be working on new songs with old friend, the amazing Shawn Colvin in August.
LA Independent - Record producer Larry Klein coming off a busy year
LOS ANGELES — Larry Klein didn’t win the Grammy for producer of the year (non-classical) during the award show Feb. 15, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.
Klein was nominated as much for the quantity of his work as he was for the quality. He produced seven albums during the Grammy award period, which runs from October 2014 through September 2015.
Among the albums he produced was “Tenderness,” the latest album by veteran Southern California singer-songwriter J.D. Souther.
He also recorded albums by English singer-songwriter Melody Gargot, British soul singer Lemar, gospel-jazz singer Lizz Wright, jazz-blues singer Madeleine Peyroux, his second wife Luciana Souza and an album paying tribute to the songs of Laura Nyro.
The albums come from all over the musical spectrum, which is something Klein has become known for in the 40-plus years he has been performing and producing music.
His musical journey began growing up in Monterey Park and attending what was then Schurr Junior High School in Montebello.
“I had an incredible music teacher, Wayne Bischoff,” Klein said during a phone interview.
“He was a ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ type character,” referring to a 1995 movie that starred Richard Dreyfuss as a high school music teacher who often drew the ire of his superiors.
“I was at Schurr when it was transitioning from a junior high to a high school so I went there for five years,” Klein said. “By my senior year, I was spending most of the school day in the music room with Mr. Bischoff. He had a major impact on my life.”
Like most young musicians in the early 1970s, Klein, a bass player, began playing with a variety of rock bands, including Freedom Eagle, which was on the verge of a record deal when it broke up instead.
“I was younger than all those guys,” Klein said. “But it was a great learning experience.”
Besides playing in bands, Klein was stretching out his knowledge at what was then known as the USC Community School, now the Colburn School.
While still in high school, he was learning music theory and music composition at the college level. By the time he started college at Cal State Los Angeles, he was playing with jazz musicians in the clubs around Los Angeles.
One of his first big jobs was playing bass for Willie Bobo, a Puerto Rican who practically invented Latin jazz. From there he got a chance to play with jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and traveled with him for several years.
“I was a musical omnivore,” Klein said. “I loved the Beatles. I loved Sinatra. I loved Wes Montgomery. I don’t see walls between different styles of music.”
But after several years spent mostly on the road he got tired of the travel and became more interested in playing studio sessions, which eventually led him to producing.
“I found producing a satisfying way of bringing everything together I had learned,” he said.
In 1982, he found himself working on “Wild Things Run Fast,” an album by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, whose music had evolved from folk to pop to jazz.
“Joni had been playing with (former Weather Report member) Jaco Pastorius as her bass player, when I came on board,” Klein said. “It was a catalytic experience for me.”
He was only 24 when they met, but their working arrangement quickly evolved into something more personal and they married the same year “Wild Things Run Fast” came out.
The marriage lasted 12 years, during which time Klein produced three other Mitchell albums, “Dog Eat Dog,” “Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm” and “Night Ride Home. After they divorced, he produced a fifth Mitchell album, “Turbulent Indigo.”
He looks back at those years fondly.
“It was like stepping into a machine that would take me forward at light speed,” he said of his time with Mitchell. “We constantly had philosophical debates — about music, art, architecture — you name it.
“She is curious, creative and extremely driven.”
In 2008, Klein worked with jazz artist Herbie Hancock on an album of Mitchell’s songs called “River: The Joni Letters.” It won Grammys for album of the year and best contemporary jazz album, so Klein knows what its like to win a Grammy.
He expects to maintain a busy recording schedule in 2016, saying he plans to record a children’s album, something his 7-year-old son Noah can enjoy.
Larry Klein's Four Decades on Bass & Behind the Board
Laura It was 1972, and the turbulent ’60s were giving way to the decadent ’70s. Nixon was in the White House, Deep Throat was in theaters, and the Los Angeles home of Hugh Hefner’s international Playboy Club—newly relocated from Sunset Boulevard to Century City and frequented by the likes of Johnny Carson—was a shining beacon of swinging bachelor-pad possibilities.
Twenty-five miles away, in suburban Monterey Park, a 16-year-old wunderkind was beginning to find his groove. After starting on guitar at six and switching to electric bass at nine, he’d begun taking lessons with Steppenwolf/Delaney & Bonnie bassist Fred Rivera. His teacher, Herb Mickman, was schooling him on electric, upright, piano, and jazz harmony, and it was Mickman who suggested they go see the Bill Evans Trio—at the Playboy Club. “I wasn’t even allowed to be there, but somehow he managed to spirit me into the place,” says Klein four decades later. “You can imagine a 16-year-old kid seeing Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez at the Playboy Club, with Playboy Bunnies walking around. I thought I had died and gone to heaven!”
That’d be a high point for any teenage jazz fan born in the ’50s, but Klein’s career hadn’t even begun. His broad palette and ear for pop allowed him to move smoothly from a promising late-’70s stint as a top-flight jazz sideman (Freddie Hubbard, Dianne Reeves) to a career as a versatile session ninja (Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan, Wayne Shorter) with filmscoring skills (Grace of My Heart, Duets), capable of creating bass sub-hooks on huge ’80s hits (Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” and Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”), as well as a fresh, contemporary approach to Joni Mitchell’s music after her celebrated string of albums featuring Jaco Pastorius.
It is as a producer and co-writer, however, that Klein has achieved his widest fame. His resumé is especially notable for the long list of great female singer/songwriters—including Tracy Chapman, Madeleine Peyroux, Shawn Colvin, Julia Fordham, Bonnie Raitt, and Holly Cole—with whom he’s worked. Over the years, Klein has developed a reputation for being relaxed, sensitive, and open to new ideas, qualities that certainly endeared him to Mitchell, who first hired him in 1982. They were married from 1982 to 1994, and Klein has played on, produced, or co-produced everything she’s done since the ’80s, nabbing Grammys for his contributions to 1995’s Turbulent Indigo, 2001’s Both Sides Now, Herbie Hancock’s 2008 masterwork River: The Joni Letters, and its follow-up, 2011’s The Imagine Project.
More than 40 years after he hit the scene, Klein’s Strange Cargo label gives him the freedom to work with handpicked artists such as Thomas Dybdahl, whose sexy, trippy, Klein-produced What’s Left Is Forever hit shelves last year. When the mood strikes him, he reaches for a sunburst ’62 Jazz Bass, a Gretsch Country Gentleman, or his longtime favorite, a Music Man StingRay 5-string, but producing is what he loves most these days.
He’s done three Grammy-nominated albums with his wife, the accomplished Brazilian songstress/producer Luciana Souza—“a wicked demon of a musician”—and is working on a fourth. Nominated for a Producer of the Year Grammy in 2009 for his work with Melody Gardot, Klein has much to look forward to, including projects with J.D. Souther and Liz Wright, another record with Gardot, and “an ambitious project” with Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang. What’s the most crucial advice he could give after all these years of high-profile collaborations and successes? “Hold on to your humility, and seek out great teachers. That would be at the top of my list.”
You took lessons with Fred Rivera and Herb Mickman, but did you have other teachers?
Those were my two first teachers, and then all through junior high and high school I went to USC Community Schools, now the Colburn School, where they had great teachers and guest lecturers such as Michael Tilson Thomas. I also took private composition classes with a guy named Wayne Bischoff, a Mr. Holland’s Opus-type character, in seventh grade, and I studied classical arco technique with John Schiavo of the L.A. Philharmonic. I was really lucky all my life in finding the right teachers.
How relevant to your career were those years of studying theory and harmony?
All the things you absorb, whether it be a Beethoven symphony or a song you hear on the radio—all of it ends up informing your musical instincts. Early on, it may have seemed like all that disparate information had no effect on what I played intuitively, but eventually, it affected how I built bass lines and how I saw bass fitting into the design of a given track.
Everything in our world now is so abbreviated, moving at such an incredibly fast rate, people forget that apprenticeship and studying and focusing on the basic building blocks of playing and writing music are so important. I’m happy to rant on that whenever possible.
How did your time with Joni Mitchell affect your knowledge of harmony?
Profoundly. She crafted a sense of harmony for herself by virtue of the tunings she developed, all because she just didn’t have the hand strength to finger chords in the usual way. I ended up using those guitar tunings myself to write with, so yes, she strongly influenced my sense of harmony and composition.
What’s your perspective on Jaco’s work with Joni?
Before me, guys like Max Bennett—and even earlier, Stephen Stills—had played on her records. Joni was ready to work with someone who played in a way where the bass wasn’t down at the bottom of the track. Jaco was her liberator in that respect.
You began working with Joni just after her last album with Jaco. How was that?
Jaco was functioning pretty much exclusively as a melodic counterpoint to Joni, and by the time I began working with her, she wanted the bass to have a greater part in holding down the groove. At the same time, she also didn’t want anything that resembled a conventional approach. So I was searching for my own way of approaching both her music and the role of the bass.
Of all the work you’ve done together, what stands out?
Different tracks from all the records pop out from time to time. I like so many things, but Night Ride Home  was a wonderful record to make, and I’m really proud of the bass work on there. I was asked to contribute to a book about Joni [2013’s Gathered Light: The Poetry of Joni Mitchell’s Songs], and I chose to write about “Chinese Café/Unchained Melody” [from Wild Things Run Fast, 1982]. There’s something so profound about that track— it makes me cry every time I hear it.
Did you get to hang with Jaco?
Yes. As a person, he was such a walking idiosyncrasy. He was so confident and arrogant, but there was a part of his spirit that was innocent and had such a fun edge that I would never hold that against him.
You walk into a session and hear a track for the first time. What goes through your mind?
I hear things that tie into the melody, the chord structure, and the way the song is designed. I hear these repetitive things, and I’m sure the reason I hear them is that I’ve absorbed so many great bass parts by other bass players.
Do you think bass players are naturally suited to being producers?
We sit at the intersection of groove, harmony, and melody, and spending years providing the right kind of structure can prepare one to have a vision of how the landscape of a track should be built. But being a producer is a very complex job that changes with every record and every artist.
When you produce at the highest level, you become just another person in the room who’s directing, opening doors, and shedding light on things. Everyone leaves the studio thinking, Wow, I just played better than I’ve ever played. They don’t go home thinking, That guy is a great producer. When you’re really doing your job, you almost disappear.
How did you apply that to Thomas Dybdahl?
He had already built a substantial career and made some great records on his own, so I wanted to explore parts of himself he hadn’t really explored. A lot of things we did were based on germs of things he’d done in prior projects.
Did you begin the sessions with strong production ideas?
Early on, Thomas asked me what production techniques I was planning to use, and the only thing I could say was, I don’t know. But I told him that a lot of it was inside him already. The last thing I wanted to do was to come in with a bucket of tricks and redesign the way he did everything.
Do you usually play on sessions you produce?
I go back and forth. Sometimes, it’s just too many things to do at the same time, so I have some great bass players who are also very patient with me suggesting things. David Piltch played on Thomas’ record; I work with him quite a bit. I’ve been a fan of Lee Sklar since I was a kid, and I love using him on records, too.
How did it feel to “replace” Ray Brown on The Merv Griffin Show?
Right when David Letterman’s show became the hot thing, Merv wanted to “young up” the band, so Ray Brown was one of the first people to leave. They asked me to come and play, and it was pretty comical, in my mind, that I was going to replace Ray Brown. But it was actually pretty fun, and it was a good experience to be able to play in so many different contexts within a short amount of time. One day I’d have to play with Buddy Rich, the next day with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, and then the next day, B.B. King.
How do you split your time between upright and electric?
If someone calls me to play on a record these days, first of all, it’s difficult for me to do schedule-wise, but I’m more apt to do it on electric. I just don’t get a chance to put in enough time on the upright where I really feel good playing it on a record I’m producing.
Is it true that you had to convince Walter Becker to play bass on his own Circus Money?
Yes! I produced it and Walter wanted me to play on it, but I felt adamant that he play on it. People don’t know—he’s serious as a bass player! He’s got such a deep groove, and the combination of him and [drummer] Keith Carlock on that record was just amazing.
Do you go on the road often?
Not much these days. In fact, Walter was asking if I wanted to do the Steely Dan gig for a tour a little ways back. As much as I would love to, my time right now is better spent making records, and I’ve got a five-year-old son, so I want to stay home as much as I can.
What’s your take on creating a long-term career in the music business?
Joni always used to say that the quickest way to kill your career was to have a hit, and maybe that’s true. I certainly like success, but I don’t make my decisions based on what I think is going to be a hit. I try to make records that will stand the test of time and change people as they listen to them. I’ve managed to keep a fairly pure motivation, and there’s something to be said for the role that plays in one’s longevity in the music business.
Billy Childs and Friends Reimagine Laura Nyro’s Music
Laura Nyro was an intensely emotional powerhouse of a singer-songwriter who, over the course of a 30-year career, wrote huge hits for others. One measure of her impact is that, for two weeks in 1969, she had written three songs in Billboard’s Top 10. Yet, as a performer, she never won a Grammy award or earned a Top 40 single before her untimely death in 1997 at the age of 49.
A new album of her songs by Grammy-winning composer-pianist Billy Childs and all-star cast of singers and musicians seems likely to win Nyro new fans and reinvigorate her musical legacy.
Much more than a tribute album, Map To The Treasure: Laura Nyro Reimagined (Sony Masterworks), which is set for release on Sept. 9, boldly reinterprets and recontextualizes her songs, drawing on jazz and chamber music, while retaining the joyous blend of Brill Building pop, soul, gospel and jazz that made Nyro such an original.
Although she never won more than a fervent cult following as a singer and performer, almost everyone has heard the great covers of Nyro songs like The 5th Dimension’s “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Wedding Bell Blues”; Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “And When I Die”; Three Dog Night’s “Eli’s Comin’”; and Barbra Streisand’s “Stoney End.” Yet her most lasting legacy might be her influence on a generation of pop and jazz innovators: Joni Mitchell, Donald Fagen, Rickie Lee Jones, Todd Rundgren and Elton John have all acknowledged her as an inspiration.
Also among her early fans were two 16-year-old, budding jazz musicians from Los Angeles: Childs and a young bass player named Larry Klein, who had met in a music theory workshop for musically gifted high schoolers at USC. After class, the two friends found inspiration listening to Nyro records together; they would later play together as sidemen for Freddie Hubbard in the late 1970s. (“Larry got me on that gig,” Childs said recently.)
After that, their musical paths diverged: Childs became a jazz pianist and composer of chamber and symphonic music, while Klein found fame as a producer for Mitchell and other pop and jazz artists. The Nyro project, with Childs arranging and playing keyboards, and Klein producing, is their first collaboration since touring with Hubbard.
The friends have assembled an impressive cast of singers for the project, including Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Renée Fleming (who sings the aria-like “New York Tendaberry”), Alison Krauss, Dianne Reeves, Ledisi, Becca Stevens, Shawn Colvin, Susan Tedeschi and Lisa Fischer (of 20 Feet from Stardom fame).
Guest musicians on the album include soloists Yo-Yo Ma (who accompanies Fleming), Wayne Shorter, Chris Botti, Jerry Douglas, Chris Potter and Steve Wilson, along with the inspired pianism of Childs and a band that includes drummers Brian Blade, Jay Bellerose and Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist Scott Colley and guitarist Dean Parks.
Klein has ample experience producing large, complex projects; he co-produced River: The Joni Letters with Herbie Hancock, which won the Album of the Year Grammy in 2008. That record explored the jazz implications of Mitchell’s songs and led to a greater acceptance of her as a composer of jazz standards; this album could do something similar for Nyro.
In scoring a suite of Nyro songs, Childs drew upon his background in both jazz and classical formats—he has written works for orchestras, including the L.A. Philharmonic as well as leading his own chamber jazz group.
The result is full of revelatory moments including inspired soloing by Shorter to adorn Spalding’s pure vocal in “Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp”; Botti’s mournful trumpet elegy in the introduction to a solemn, orchestral interpretation of “Save The Country” (sung with feeling by Colvin); and the way “Stoned Soul Picnic,” fully inhabited by r&b singer Ledisi, morphs at the end into a funky, boppish piano solo.
When selecting songs for the album, Childs chose to explore Nyro’s Gothic imagination, which may surprise fans of her more familiar and sunnier melodies. “Her songs are like part of one long opera,” he said by phone from Los Angeles, “where there are these recurring characters—God and the Devil, her father, her mother, her friends, men who have done her wrong and men who are good. It’s like a great novel.”
He said he felt compelled to include not only some of the hits, like “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Save The Country,” but also very dark songs that confront the world’s evils, like the heroin ballad “Been On A Train,” harrowingly realized by Jones; and “Gibsom Street,” whose chilling lyrics, sung by a world-weary Tedeschi (sample verse: “Don’t go to Gibsom cross the river/ The devil is hungry, the devil is sweet/ If you are soft then you will shiver/ They hang the alley cats on Gibsom Street”), reminds Childs of German expressionist films like M or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Childs enjoyed working with his old friend Klein. One example of their collaboration was rethinking the song “Save The Country.” Nyro’s version had an optimism—it was like a rallying song for the nation’s spirits following the assassinations of President Kennedy; his brother Robert Kennedy; and Dr. Martin Luther King. Childs said, “I loved the tunefulness and the upbeat quality of her version, but Larry had an idea: He said, ‘Why don’t we do it with a more somber approach, as though we’re looking back on the past 40 years, and the country has gone to hell in a handbasket?’ It’s more of a desperate plea, so I approached it that way. And it was a great idea.”
Childs knew he faced a tremendous challenge in reimagining Nyro’s work. “How do you improve on something that’s already perfect?” Childs asked. “The point for me is not to improve on it, because you can’t. But I love this music so much, and it’s had such a profound effect on me, that I want to put it through the prism of my own experience.”
This is not your mother’s Laura Nyro record, but “red-yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine” for a new generation.
Norwegian pop star Thomas Dybdahl uses L.A. as his lab - L.A. TIMES
was going to be something special.
A real-deal pop star in his native Norway, the 35-year-old singer had come to Los Angeles to do what all real-deal pop stars eventually do: experiment with his working method.
Instead of assembling his songs piece by piece, playing many of the sounds himself in a home-studio setting, he was collaborating with a name producer, Larry Klein, and Klein’s posse of first-call session players.
“I didn’t want to make another jigsaw record,” Dybdahl said, referring to the patched-together process that nonetheless yielded a string of radio hits and No. 1 albums at home. “On those records it was a matter of using what you’ve got — and I didn’t have too much.”
In a session at West L.A.’s storied Village Recorder, though, he had Jay Bellerose, a drummer who’s motored songs by everyone from Elton John to Audra McDonald and was now laying the foundation for Dybdahl’s song “This Love Is Here to Stay.”
“To just sit there and watch Jay ponder as I talked, then go out to his kit and start building a groove — to me that was amazing,” he said. “I was floored by that.”
Months later, that groove is grabbing others: The first track on Dybdahl’s just-released “What’s Left Is Forever” album, “This Love Is Here to Stay,” turned up recently on Showtime’s “House of Lies” and landed on the series’ soundtrack alongside cuts by Gary Clark Jr. and Aloe Blacc.
It spins regularly on KCRW-FM, the taste-making Santa Monica public radio station. And last week the polished R&B tune drew a big response during Dybdahl’s gig at Hotel Cafe, where he’s set to conclude a month-long residency on Wednesday night.
With its breathy, close-miked vocals and sumptuous folk-soul textures, “What’s Left Is Forever” fits neatly into Dybdahl’s body of solo work, which stretches back over a decade to his 2002 debut; this album isn’t the creation of Bellerose, Klein or any of the other heavyweight session guys — including bassist David Piltch and guitarist Dean Parks — who worked on it.
But those players undeniably left a mark.
“I had heard the musicians Thomas had been playing with in Norway, and they were good,” said Klein, known for his work with Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell, among others. (In addition to producing “What’s Left Is Forever,” Klein released the album through his Strange Cargo label.) “But I had a feeling that being thrown into this new situation with these other musicians would just up his game. And I think it did.”
Now that it’s done, the album is profiting too from an alignment with the wider musical world. Where the smooth tones and gentle rhythms of Dybdahl’s earlier efforts seemed to come from nowhere (at least to those outside Norway), his latest shares a soft-touch vibe with work by hipster-beloved acts like Quadron and L.A.’s Rhye; it even feels related to the delicate new Coldplay disc.
“House of Lies” music supervisor Chris Douridas said the “timeless” quality of Dybdahl’s material — which he compared to that of Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen — means it will occasionally come into vogue “the way the best songwriters’ stuff does.”
“Look at Joni Mitchell,” he went on. “Her stuff resurfaces, then retreats to the background, then bubbles back again. It’s a rare quality you don’t see much of anymore.”
Dybdahl, who picked up the guitar at age 10 after an American family moved in next door to his in the coastal oil town of Stavanger, claimed to be only vaguely aware of the younger acts who’ve found success with a sound he’s been honing for years.
“Yeah?” he said when told over lunch at a Venice eatery that all of a sudden his music feels au courant. “That might be good for me. I wouldn’t stand in the way of that.” (Of his fashionably mellow vocals, he shrugged: “There’s no way I can rough this up — it’s just the way it is.”)
Yet he’s clearly putting more effort into building a fan base in this country than he has before. After recording much of the album in Los Angeles, he moved back here with his wife and 6-year-old son for the duration of his Hotel Cafe gig. And he’s kept busy between shows writing and recording with other musicians; last week he played a new song he said even the members of his band hadn’t heard before.
“He’s a hard worker,” said Klein, who added that Dybdahl always says yes when Klein asks him to contribute to other Strange Cargo projects.
His goal, the singer said, is not necessarily to be a superstar here, an experience he gets enough of in Norway, where upon his return next month he’s scheduled to play an outdoor concert backed by a symphony orchestra.
Rather, he’s focused on establishing the traction required to tour dependably and to undertake more musical experiments like the one that resulted in “What’s Left Is Forever.”
A steady-gigging professional long before his recent collaboration with Klein and his cronies, Dybdahl still said he found their work ethic inspiring.
“The everyday life of a musician — it’s really something to do.”