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On Former Wife Joni Mitchell, Grammys And Making Wayne Shorter And Herbie Hancock Cry; In conversation With Music Legend Larry Klein Print-ready version

by Hannah Gal
December 10, 2016

The marriage to Joni Mitchell lasted twelve years but the strong connection lingers. Here, Klein speaks of Joni Mitchell's illness, his astoundingly prolific musical career and how the unparalleled Both Sides Now brought tears to Hancock and Shorter's eyes.

Iconic music industry figure Larry Klein, boasts a fantastically diverse discography that reads like a whose who list of music's finest. From Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock to Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot, Tracy Chapman, Walter Becker, Luciana Souza, Pink, Seal, Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan and Don Henley among many notable others.

In a stroke of musical genius, Klein has in 2000, fused Mitchell's music with inspirational arranger Vince Mendoza, to create the mesmerising Both Sides Now, preceded by his 1994 production of Joni's iconic Turbulent Indigo.

The marriage to Joni Mitchell lasted twelve years but the strong connection lingers. Here, Klein speaks of Joni Mitchell's illness, his astoundingly prolific musical career and how the unparalleled Both Sides Now brought tears to Hancock and Shorter's eyes.

Q I just listened to Ana Moura on YouTube, what a soulful voice and beautiful musicianship. Does the transition from one artist/style of music to another come naturally to you?

I'm an omnivore by nature. I've always been. Probably a by-product of my parents having a great and varied record collection. For me it's a way of educating myself in mediums where my knowledge is rather minimal, or deepening my relationship to an area of music that already was substantial. In the case of Ana Moura, I had discovered fado by chance, then had made a note to myself that I wanted to work with Ana, after making my way through a lot of Amalia Rodriguez' records.

To me, Ana was the contemporary voice that excited me. A couple of months later her manager got a hold of me regarding the possibility of working with Ana. Serendipity at work...

Q I wonder if the artists tend to find you or do you navigate towards the talent you are attracted to?

Both. Sometimes I will send word that I would love to work with someone and just put it out there, even if I don't know whether there is a hope in hell that the person would ever want to work with me. Other times an artist who I've always been a bit timid about approaching will call me out of the blue and ask if I would be interested in working with them. This is one of the best things about my job; I never know what is going to happen from day to day. I've always wanted to make a record with James Taylor. He asked me about the possibility after a concert a ways back, and I said something to the effect of "tell me where and when and I will be there!". It hasn't happened yet, but I am hoping every day that it does. Everything about his talent excites me. I played with him for a bit years ago, and put that on my bucket list of dream gigs.

Q Not sure if you will agree with me (I know you are somewhat biased) but Luciana Sauza is one of the most capable vocalists I ever heard. She refers to you as "musically curious", do you agree?

I am rabidly curious. Curious about everything. Sometimes it's painful. Like when I go into bookstores; I can't walk out without buying 8 books. I love a quote that I read of Judd Apatow saying "I think that I have confused buying books with reading them!" I have stacks of books and music that are 3 feet high on my desk and nightstand. That being said, regarding the making of records, curiosity is the quality that I always look for in the people that I work with, whether it is players, artists, or friends. I really don't want to work with musicians who are not curious, because that equates to arrogance, and the kind of personality that makes it impossible to find fresh ground between things that have already been explored. If I am working with songs that have been covered previously, I want to do something with the song that enables people to hear the poetry and music in a new way. I want to be able to take the iconic stability off of the song by re-setting it. To do that I need to be surrounded by musicians and engineers who are so secure that they aren't afraid to fall on their face in front of each other! Luciana is an amazing musician and singer. She is scary great. The first time that I heard her sing Brazilian music, on my way to the club I thought "I hope that she is good!". After hearing 2 tunes I was utterly intimidated!!!

Q I heard Prince say he went through quite a few years of not being inspired by anything new he heard, I wonder if you ever experienced such an inspiration drought? what's on your playlist?

I go through periods where nothing sounds good to me. Especially my own records that I have done. Nothing excites me musically, everything sounds banal and overworked. I've come to realize that these are times that I just need to go on input and read, or watch movies. Probably some kind of bio-chemical cyclical thing, or nature's way of telling you to rest a bit and round yourself out. Regarding my playlist, I have some artists who are always enjoyable for me to listen to, and who always inspire me. Bob Dylan (no matter what he is doing), Randy Newman (no matter what it is), The Beatles, early 60's Southern soul records, Miles Davis, Sinatra. I love certain things about many records that are made now, but I don't find too many that have that transcendent and timeless quality to inspire one at any time. I think that it was the architect John Lautner who said that a good building was one that was perfectly constructed, but a great building is one that spawns ideas for 10 good buildings! I worry about those great albums being made in coming years in the context of what has happened to the music business. There is no financial incentive for people to try to make timeless art now that everything is given away without compensation to those who make it. You have new generations of artists, musicians and composers who's prime goal is to make something that sounds like what is selling fast, not something that will be around for a long time. Disposable art. I can't help myself; I've always been of the other camp, the one that wants to be able to hear a record that I've made in 20 years and think " that still sounds good! Sounds like it could have been made yesterday!"

Q What can you tell me about the Rickie Lee Jones collaboration? how did this come about?

It never happened. We talked about doing something together. I love her mind, and love what she does. I was very excited about working with her. I got her to sing a Laura Nyro song called "Been On A Train" on an album that I produced for Billy Childs of Laura's music, and she just killed! It's a diamond. But I think that she might have felt that I took advantage of her in some way by getting her to do it. These kinds of album where you have multiple guest vocalists are always Most Favored Nations things where everyone gets paid relatively little, especially these days. Something went wrong, and we never made the record together. Maybe next time if I'm lucky, she'll give the idea another chance.

Q Joni Mitchell is a one off.. Every musician I talk to (from jazz to heavy metal), melts when talking of her songwriting. From "I wish I had a River, I could sail away on" to "I've looked at clouds from both sides now" and a million others, she is one of the greatest talents ever. I refrained from asking about your marriage to Jonni out of courtesy and my thorough dislike of gossip, but with Joni's health in the news I want to ask how worried you are.

She is slowly recovering. With the brain, nobody can tell you what is going to happen. My experience of her has been seeing her once in a while, and she is quite cogent and able to converse, as well as having her wonderful sense of humor very much intact... I'm very grateful that now I can get together with her, and do whatever I possibly can to help her and let her know how much I love her, and how important a teacher and force she has always been in my life. I hope that she can come back to making music. I'm going to do whatever small part in my power to help.

Q You are responsible to some of Joni's greatest recordings. A few years on, what are your thoughts on the phenomenal Both sides Now recording?

I love the Both Sides Now album. I think that we really succeeded in doing what we hoped to do on it. When Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock first listened to it, they both cried. That's enough for me to know that we achieved what we set out to do. I love hearing it now. It's very moving to me.

Q What would you love to work on? do you have a dream collaboration?

Oh, I still have many people that I really want to work with, and many ideas that I haven't acted upon. I would love to make an album with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Barbara Streisand, Bjork, Don Henley, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke, and many many others.

I come across people and ideas every day that I would love to work with or make come alive. I just hope that things work out so that the economics of creativity in music are such that I can do what I do in the future. I'm doing everything that I can now to get more involved in constructive change in the system, so that the people who make records and art can continue doing so without thinking that it will entail living like a pauper! ...I have wanted to make an album with a great Israeli artist for a long time. I still do

"..I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all
Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way"
-Joni Mitchell. Both Sides Now.

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Added to Library on March 3, 2023. (1113)


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