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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.

Record producer Larry Klein has been working in the music industry since his teenage years in Monterey Park. (Courtesy photo)
Record producer Larry Klein has been working in the music industry since his teenage years in Monterey Park. (Courtesy photo)

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.


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