São Paulo, Brazil, where Souza was born in 1966, “is a massive city,” she points out. But it felt like a village to her because of the close-knit family atmosphere fostered by her parents, Walter Santos and Tereza Souza.According to Souza, Walter was “a self-taught guitar player and songwriter who came from very humble beginnings. He was from the state of Bahia and he grew up with João Gilberto, who was one of the fathers of bossa nova. They grew up together and had a vocal group.” At Gilberto’s suggestion, Walter subsequently relocated to Rio de Janeiro, where he met Tereza, who Souza describes as “a poet, a thinker, a writer.” The couple headed to São Paulo after he landed a steady gig at a nightclub and never left. “I’m the youngest of five, and I grew up in this very simple home that had a lot of instruments and lots of musicians coming through,” Souza says. “It was very fluid and beautiful.” Among the regular visitors was Hermeto Pascoal, a renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist, as well as Souza’s godfather. “Whenever he was in town, he was at our house, playing musical games with me,” she recalls. “In a way, I grew up in a music school.” She soon put her skills to work in the family business. “My parents worked at a jingle house,” Souza says. “They would write jingles, commercials for television and radio. I started singing on some of them when I was very small. And in middle school and high school, I was singing jingles maybe two times a week.” She chuckles when asked about what kind of products she touted. “I sang about candy. Little toys. Vacuum cleaners. And I got paid. All that money went in the bank.” This cash would come in handy soon enough. She applied to Boston’s Berklee College of Music at the suggestion of her brother Eduardo, who preceded her there, and after getting in, she used her jingle income to travel back and forth to Brazil. Early on during her Berklee studies, Souza wasn’t convinced she would put music at the center of her life. “I grew up in a dictatorship, with artist-parents who had friends who disappeared,” she remembers. “We were told at the dinner table not to let anyone know who had been at our house, because some of them were followed, persecuted, tortured. It was a terrible time in Brazil, and I thought I wanted to go into politics. I wanted to change the world.” Fortunately, military rule had ended by the time Souza completed her studies at Berklee in 1988. “When I left there,” she says, “I knew music is what I wanted to do.” After some time back in Brazil, she returned to the United States to attend the New England Conservatory of Music and soon began to contribute to recordings by a wide variety of artists, including Pascoal, Bob Moses, Romero Lubambo and many others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T08Iw1tEU9I Finally, in 1998, Souza got the chance to headline her own project, dubbed An Answer to Your Silence, which reflected her then-current obsessions. “For me, it was all about melody and harmony and complicated meters. At the time, to be honest with you, I wasn’t that interested in words.” That would change. A running gag in Souza’s family when she was a kid involved Tereza’s addiction to reading. “The house was filled with books, and my mother’s head was always in the pages,” she says. “We’d ask each other, ‘How many times did you have to call mom before she looked up?’” Years later, Tereza’s love of the written word led to a gift that prefigured an important shift in Souza’s artistic development. “My mom sent me a book in Portuguese called Minha Vida de Menina and the English translation, which is called The Diary of Helena Morley. The translation was done by a woman named Elizabeth Bishop, who was a poet. I remembered reading one of her poems in college. But she really captured something of the Brazilian culture and the Brazilian spirit, and it made me curious about her and her life.” Her research led to the 2000 album The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs, an artistic breakthrough that Souza has built upon regularly throughout the years that followed. “It was a very difficult record,” she acknowledges. “I was searching for something, and it opened a whole new path for me.” It’s hardly the only route Souza has taken. Over the years, she’s appeared with a slew of major orchestras and chamber music groups, and her eclectic recordings, including 2012’s The Book of Chet, a tribute to trumpeter-vocalist Chet Baker, shows that she’s unwilling to stick to a single lane. But she keeps coming back to poetry, as witnessed by 2004’s Neruda, featuring 11 poems by Pablo Neruda that Souza set to music, and 2015’s Speaking in Tongues, which includes “Split” and “No One to Follow,” her first recordings of Cohen poems from his Book of Longing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4THL1sFioE Klein met Cohen in the early 1980s through Mitchell. “He’s one of my only friends who attended both my weddings,” he says. After Klein gave Souza a copy of Longing around the time of its 2006 publication, she quickly fell in love with the directness of his imagery. “I’ve spoken English for more than half my life, but with some poetry, I still feel like I have to labor at it,” she concedes. “With Leonard, there’s none of that. I just read the words and I know what they are. I can see the scene he’s describing. I can smell the skin he’s talking about.” But when Souza approached Cohen about writing songs based on Longing prose, she learned that they’d already been promised to someone else: singer-songwriter Anjani Thomas. “He was with her through a period of time that Lu and I were friends with him,” Klein says, “and I think she had already sort of laid claim to putting music to some of the poems. He was actually no longer in a relationship with her, but he felt obligated to kind of stand by the commitment he had made.” When Cohen declined her first entreaty, “I was very sad, but I understood,” Souza maintains. “Every year and a half or so, though, I kept pushing: ‘Can I record them? Please, Leonard?’ Finally, he said, ‘Send them to me.’ So I made a little demo and sent it to him on a file on the computer. He was always so lovely to me — funny and generous, but kind. And he wrote back and said, ‘Yes, you can do it.’” After Cohen’s death, Souza still had several tunes based on Longing poems: “Night Song,” “Paris,” “The Book” and “A Life.” Because his father had already signed off on them, Adam Cohen, Leonard’s son and executor, granted permission for their inclusion on a new recording. They wound up establishing the tone for the contemplative offering that would result.