The great Argentine composer, known for his jazzy-themes, would be perhaps best known for his scoring of Mission: Impossible. But Lalo Schifrin’s work encompasses more than popular films, and the composer was recently awarded this year’s Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award for his musical contributions.
While having worked on The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and Cool Hand Luke (1967), Schifrin also notably worked with Dizzy Gillespie on various jazz albums, including A Musical Safari (1961), Dizzy on the French Riviera (1962) and New Wave (1962), among others. His jazz contributions span the period 1957-2000, with notable albums including Bossa Nova: New Brazilian Jazz (1962), Jazz Meets the Symphony (1992) (and the more enticing More Jazz Meets the Symphony (1993)). His teaming up with Gillespie on Free Ride (1977) brought together the artist’s hallmark sounds. As the Allmusic review stated: ‘The things that make Schifrin an anathema to the diehards — the huge orchestras, the pop and soul riffs, the general air of over the top theatricality — are all over 1977’s Free Ride, his reunion date with Dizzy Gillespie… it’s very much a record of and for its time…’
His jazz stuff is inevitably better than his more commercial work (this isn’t always the case with composers), although his work on Dirty Harry (which has a jazz and blues feel anyway), and his altering of Jerry Goldsmith’s original theme for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., show the composer’s dedication to jazz riffs. Not to be restricted to any theme or genre, Schifrin has also tapped into the Latino/Tango scene (see Lalolé: The Latin Sound of Lalo Schifrin, 1959), adding to that Gypsy Jazz feel, that Reinhardt accomplishes so well. Schifrin adds an authentic and exotic sound to each work, understanding what melodies work for each instrument.
Schifrin was awarded the Max Steiner Award last month at this year’s Hollywood In Vienna Concert. Steiner, known for Gone with the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1942) (whose epic scores remain masterful pieces of work) along with other composers of his day leaves an indelible mark and legacy.