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reviews by douglas payne

SPECTRUM / mid 1950s / Epic   
An obscure collection of non-Schifrin tunes using the color spectrum as a theme, this hard-to-find record is a solid bachelor-pad orchestral work. At one extreme it is something like Andre Kostelanetz doing Chopin and at the other end, it recalls Nelson Riddle's Lolita. Lots of bouncy soundtrack strings, heavy-handed piano, harps scaling glissandos, lilting flutes and occasional percussion motifs. Schifrin's arranging skills are the reason to hear this but with no credits, one can't be sure it's him on the piano. Schifrin's unique personality simply does not have the presence here that it would gain very shortly hereafter.

PIANO ESPANOL / c. 1959 / Tico  
Early and worthy Schifrin very similar to 50s-era Xavier Cugat, who Schifrin was arranging for at the time. At times Schifrin sounds like a mad mix of Dezi Arnez and Martin Denny. Frenetic and rather too typical Latin arrangements are enhanced by Schifrin's effervescent piano. It's nice but not exceptional. The one gem here is the only Schifrin original, "Hulablues" - a clear indication of the direction he'd head in the mid 60s on his Verve orchestral records. 

GILLESPIANA / November 14 & 15, 1960 / Verve   
Lalo Schifrin exploded onto the American jazz scene with this, his Suite for Trumpet and Brass Orchestra, written especially for Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespiana set the standard for New York studio jazz orchestra recordings in the early 60s and remains a milestone in Gillespie's illustrious career. Schifrin's love and respect for the trumpet player is evident throughout. And Dizzy responds in kind with some dynamic, exciting interchanges. Nice spots for Schifrin, Leo Wright and Candido Camero too. This CD is worth repeated listens, even some studying [Does anyone else hear the influence of Yma Sumac in "Panamericana"?  Schifrin's musical career seems devoted to destroying any concept of musical anachronism]. Schifrin's very formal charts mingle perfectly here with the improvisational talents of its featured players. Truly classic American music. Schifrin conducted a reunion band performing the Gillespiana Suite at Carnegie Hall in 1995, featuring Jon Faddis in honor of the late Mr. Gillespie, and recorded it again for his own label, Aleph, the following year.

THE GILLESPIANA SUITE / November 20, 1960 / Malaco   
This well-recorded concert event catches Gillespie's quintet live at the Salle Pleyel in Paris only five days after the original recording of Schifrin's magnum opus. The 53-minute performance is historically significant because Gillespie was rarely able to perform the entire five-part suite in public (though he often played "Blues" throughout the remainder of his career) and it was thought that no performance of this suite had been recorded. What's more, Schifrin's 20-piece brass section is covered fully (and satisfyingly) by just Gillespie's quintet with Leo Wright on alto sax and flute, Schifrin on piano, Art Davis on bass and Chuck Lampkin on drums and percussion. The quintet is also in quite good form, with the pianist and the bassist taking the most impressive solos of the evening. Candido adds his conga to Ellington's "Caravan" and the brief "Coda," which round out the program. Also known as LIVE IN PARIS and PARIS JAZZ CONCERT.

LALO = BRILLIANCE / c. 1962 / Roulette   
Effectively employing much of the Gillespie rhythm section without Dizzy, Schifrin challenges each of his talented associates to reach new and unusual sounds. The jarring beauty of "The Snake's Dance" is an excellent example. It begins with a Middle Eastern flavor whose sound initially belies the instrumentation of the standard guitar, flute and percussion. In many instances, Schifrin's piano merely highlights or colors; however, his dynamic solo in "Kush" is undoubtedly the album's highlight (intriguingly anticipating some of Brubeck's style while playing with Gerry Mulligan several years after this). Schifrin's compositions "The Snake's Dance," "Mount Olive" and "Sphayros" are all worth a listen but the group excels on the more familiar material; especially "Kush," "Rhythm-A-Ning" and "Cubano Be." Reissued on CD in 2001 as part of TIN TIN DEO.

BOSSA NOVA/NEW BRAZILIAN JAZZ / c. 1962 / Audio Fidelity 
[also issued on CD as BRAZILIAN JAZZ / 2000 / Aleph]

This very good Lalo Schifrin samba sampler from 1962, reissued by the pianist in 2000 on his own label, recreates the Gillespie band without Dizzy in a bossa nova mode. Leo Wright's reed work, here as elsewhere,  is always a pleasure to hear and Schifrin is dynamic on piano, especially on "Chora Tua Tristeza," "O Apito No Samba," "Chega de Saudade," "Menina Feia" and "Samba de Uma Nota So."

[also issued as part of BOSSA NOVA GROOVE [CD] / 1999 / Ubatuqui]

This 1999 Spanish CD compilation reissues the entire contents of two of Lalo Schifrin's most obscure LPs: BOSSA NOVA, an Eddie Harris sextet session from Vee Jay (with Lalo's arrangements, piano and three Schifrin compositions) plus the pianist's 1962 Audio Fidelity LP, BOSSA NOVA - NEW BRAZILIAN JAZZ. Both serve as nice pieces of memorabilia from the bossa nova craze that swept jazz in the early 1960s. Both also feature a heaping helping of Schifrin's ever-effervescent piano work. The Eddie Harris date is too harshly recorded (and unusually unexciting) for bossa nova - but Harris, Schifrin and guitarist Jimmy Raney make it worthwhile. The far better Schifrin samba sampler essentially recreates the Gillespie band without Dizzy in bossa nova mode. Leo Wright's reed work, here as elsewhere,  is always a pleasure to hear and Schifrin is dynamic on piano, especially on "Chora Tua Tristeza," "O Apito No Samba," "Chega de Saudade," "Menina Feia" and "Samba de Uma Nota So."

THE NEW CONTINENT / September 1962 / Limelight   
By Dizzy Gillespie and the Big Band, composed and arranged by Lalo Schifrin. This outstanding suite was first issued three years after its recording in 1965 and reissued again in 1979 as part of a two-fer titled Composer's Concepts. Commissioned for the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival, this outstanding and rather unusual jazz suite includes many excellent players and provocative solos. Quite a bit more formalized than Gillespiana, The New Continent (which, based on the blends of musical forms here, turns out to be America according to Schifrin) is much more like film music. Schifrin's suite is the star here. But Dizzy's holding the spotlight -- and his presence is never in doubt. In 1965, Down Beat called it "a masterpiece of contemporary composition" and "an important work, an artfully conceived expression of jazz-flavored modernity. Everyone connected with this enduring project is worthy of five stars".  

PIANO, STRINGS & BOSSA NOVA / Oct. 23 & 24, 1962 / MGM 
     w/ Jim Hall. First issued as PIANO, STRINGS & BOSSA NOVA in 1962, this album was reissued with one less title, as INSENSATEZ on Verve in 1969.  Exactly what the original title says, with 12 very brief Brazilianized themes and four Schifrin originals ("The Wave," "Rio After Dark" and "Silvia," from Schifrin's score to EL JEFE and "Lalo's Bossa Nova," written for Quincy Jones). Rare spotlight, though, on Schifrin's very interesting piano playing.

SAMBA PARA DOS / Feb. 7, 1963/ Verve   
Another of Creed Taylor's many bossa nova productions for Verve during the early 1960s, this one features a small ensemble led by pianist Lalo Schifrin and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. Schifrin's piano smokes on the title track, a ten-minute bossa burner, originally written for Quincy Jones's BIG BAND BOSSA NOVA (and also featured earlier on Schifrin's PIANO, STRINGS & BOSSA NOVA). It is the hard-to-find album's centerpiece, but it can also be found on the compilation TALKIN' VERVE: LALO SCHIFRIN. Issued on Japanese CD in 2004.

By Johnny Hodges. First issued in 1973. Schifrin attempts to fit into Hodges' groove on piano and it's not exactly a failure. But it must be overwhelming to try and fill the Duke's shoes. The program for the quintet (with Barry Galbraith, George Duvivier and Dave Bailey) certainly could have been more exciting. Includes Schifrin's "Dreary Days" and "B.A. Blues." 

SEVERAL SHADES OF JADE / April 23, 24 and 25, 1963 / Verve   
By Cal Tjader. An excellent slice of Asian-jazz exotica from vibist Cal Tjader with Lalo Schifrin's huge jazz orchestra. The arrangements are noticeably subtle and notably beautiful. Compare this to Tjader's Asian-jazz follow-up, BREEZE FROM THE EAST, (included as part of the recently-issued CD) where Stan Applebaum's ham-fisted cornpone steals the rug away from Tjader, and one instantly identifies how beautifully Schifrin marries a jazz orchestra to its lead soloist. While this was clearly another of Creed Taylor's attempts to make Tjader popular by placing him way out of his element, Schifrin makes it all work well. Perhaps it's because Schifrin well understands how to meld percussion elements into his overall musical fabric. Each of Schifrin's tunes here deserve to be more widely known: "The Fakir," "Borneo" (performed as "The Ape Woman" by Jimmy Smith), "Song of the Yellow River" and "Almond Tree." The great tune titled "Hot Sake" here is called "A Taste of Bamboo" on Schifrin's soundtrack to GONE WITH THE WAVE. "China Nights" is perhaps the album's single best performance. Highly recommended to both Schifrin and Tjader fans. 

Since Schifrin was featured only rarely without an orchestra, his piano chops become the center of attention here. In a blindfold test, it would be hard not to hear Ahmad Jamal playing or interpreting this material. This is not to say that Schifrin is mining or mimicking. But the comparisons are hard to ignore -- with one exception. Schifrin's block-chord style is persistent. While many jazz purists tend to write off such stylists (think Dave Brubeck), Schifrin knows how to keep the program interesting. The trio cooks through the oft-covered material with a marvelous synergy one would never imagine from such studio stalwarts. Schifrin shines best on his own material ("Hallucinations," "Jive Orbit" and "Impressions of Broadway"), phrasing smartly and often with taste. Although Schifrin produces a pretty collection here, it seems clear, however, he is uncomfortable at the center of attention. The pianist would later employ alternative keyboardists like Mike Melvoin and Mike Lang for his soundtrack recordings and Clark Spangler for the albums BLACK WIDOW, TOWERING TOCCATA and GYPSIES. The next (and, to this day, the last) small-group recording Schifrin participated in was, INS AND OUTS, his tepid 1982 digital recording. This one is far more interesting.

BOSSA NOVA / 1963 / Vee-Jay   
[BOSSA NOVA GROOVE [CD] / 1999 / Ubatuqui]
This 1999 Spanish CD compilation reissues the entire contents of two of Lalo Schifrin's most obscure LPs: BOSSA NOVA, an Eddie Harris sextet session from Vee Jay (with Lalo's arrangements, piano and three Schifrin compositions) plus the pianist's 1962 Audio Fidelity LP, BOSSA NOVA - NEW BRAZILIAN JAZZ. Both serve as nice pieces of memorabilia from the bossa nova craze that swept jazz in the early 1960s. Both also feature a heaping helping of Schifrin's ever-effervescent piano work. The Eddie Harris date is too harshly recorded (and unusually unexciting) for bossa nova - but Harris, Schifrin and guitarist Jimmy Raney make it worthwhile. The far better Schifrin samba sampler essentially recreates the Gillespie band without Dizzy in bossa nova mode. Leo Wright's reed work, here as elsewhere,  is always a pleasure to hear and Schifrin is dynamic on piano, especially on "Chora Tua Tristeza," "O Apito No Samba," "Chega de Saudade," "Menina Feia" and "Samba de Uma Nota So."

REFLECTIONS / October 21, 22 and 28, 1963 / Verve   
By Stan Getz - Arrangements by Claus Ogerman/Lalo Schifrin. A mostly unremarkable Getz-with-orchestra record that boasts Schifrin's wonderful and moody "Nitetime Street" and "Reflections", the languorous ballad which prompted Tony Bennett to have Gene Lees add lyrics (the result, "The Right To Love", was later covered by Bennett, Carmen McRae and Schifrin himself on the ONCE A THIEF album). Otherwise, it's mostly snoozy set. The mono version has a different set of liner notes than the stereo version.

EXPLORATIONS / Feb. 10 & 11, 1964 / Roulette   
w/ Louis Bellson. A primer in the percussive film cues for which Schifrin became justly recognized. Indeed Schifrin's "Variations" heard here was used as an action cue during the first season of MANNIX. EXPLORATIONS even hints at the symphonic direction Schifrin's film scores were to take by the late 70s. Schifrin, recognizing the potential of percussion to orchestrate, often anchors a sole instrument (a harp, a guitar or a piano) here to the panoply of Bellson's percussion choir. The overall effect is one more of shifting moods than the concerto that is intended. The listener intending to understand EXPLORATIONS as part of Schifrin's curriculum vitae will be far more intrigued and fulfilled than the Bellson fan anticipating a swinging time. 

THE CAT / April 27 and 29, 1964 / Verve   
By Jimmy Smith - Arranged and Conducted by Lalo Schifrin. Popular and exciting all-star big band record which won Jimmy Smith a Grammy Award. Similar in formula to the many Jimmy Smith records with Oliver Nelson, this is one of Smith's very best of very many orchestra-and-organ efforts during the 60s. Smith can be counted on for hot licks, but Schifrin's orchestra (comprised exclusively of brass and rhythm) can kick one swinging line after another to keep the organist enthused. While "The Cat" is well-known, "Theme From 'Joy House'" is the best of the bunch here. It is one of the only opportunities to hear Schifrin's excellent theme to the great cult film starring sexy Alain Delon and Jane Fonda. Smith is acknowledged as one of the greatest organists in jazz; but he often lets one or two sticky-sweet sentimental songs creep into each of his albums. There's nothing on THE CAT like that. Perhaps it's Schifrin's influence, but even the ballads ("Main Title From 'The Carpetbaggers'" and "Blues in the Night") have a swinging moodiness that seem to rock Smith into sterling performances. Highly recommended for tremendous musicianship that's very entertaining as well. Kudos, too, to PolyGram: This was one of the very first CDs issued in the mid 80s and has remained in print since. 

NEW FANTASY / June 9 & 10, 1964 / Verve   
One of Schifrin's earliest successes in orchestral jazz, NEW FANTASY concentrates on mostly interesting works of Copeland, Ellington, Villa-Lobos, Khatchaturian and Richard Rogers. Schifrin's colorful and often provocative arrangements highlight excellent contributions from J.J. Johnson, Jerome Richardson, Clark Terry and Mundell Lowe. The album was released on CD in Japan in 1999 and half the album ("Prelude #2," "El Salon Mexico" and "Peanut Vendor") was featured on the 1999 CD compilation TALKIN' VERVE: LALO SCHIFRIN. Schifrin also revisited the stirring, beautiful bossa nova-fied "Bachianas Brasileiras #5" on his 1996 CD GILLESPIANA IN COLOGNE and again with four other songs from NEW FANTASY on his 2005 CD, KAILEDOSCOPE.

GONE WITH THE WAVE / October 1964 / Colpix   
A terrific collection of catchy, upbeat jazz tunes accompanying a documentary film on surfing. The magic is provided by 12 of LA's best studio jazz musicians at their peak: including Paul Horn (as,f), Frank Rosolino (tb), Victor Feldman (p), Shelly Manne (d) and Howard Roberts and Laurindo Almeida (g). Very, very hard to find...but highly recommended. In 1965, Down Beat said that the album "consists of brief pieces of currently fashionable atmosphere music, ground out like neatly packaged sausages--bossa nova, funky waltz, blues, twist, etc. The performances are capable but quite impersonal." I beg to differ: Schifrin is masterful here. Issued on CD in 2006 by the wonderful folks at Film Score Monthly, along with John(ny) Williams's similarly themed Colpix soundtrack to DIAMOND HEAD.

JAZZ SUITE ON THE MASS TEXTS / November 5 and 6, 1964 / RCA   
By Paul Horn - composed and conducted by Lalo Schifrin. A fascinating and award-winning combination of jazz and liturgical music that holds up well over thirty years later. In fact, it's surprising this has yet to be released on CD given the recent chant music fad. Horn, playing flutes, clarinet and alto sax, is accompanied by his quartet, a small orchestra and chorus. There is a meditative quality to much of the music (except the free-ish "Credo"), yet the performances come alive on such up-tempo pieces as "Kyrie" and "Offertory." Again, Schifrin marries multiple and opposing styles with a poetry that is all his own. Many of these titles were dramatically overhauled for Schifrin's later release, ROCK REQUIEM (1971) and revisited as is on his own quite excellent JAZZ MASS IN CONCERT (1998). In 1965, Jazz magazine called JAZZ SUITE "one of the best attempts at religious jazz, on or off record" and Down Beat said "from a jazz point of view, there are several fine spots on this disc. But they are just spots, and if jazz is one's primary interest, the jazz in this suite is well diluted by non-jazz elements."

ONCE A THIEF / April & May 1965 / Verve  
Here's the first sign of Schifrin's brilliantly infectious compositional talents. Features his themes from ONCE A THIEF, JOY HOUSE, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E and more. Terrific tunes, great arrangements and peerless playing. The studio orchestra includes the very best of New York's jazz musicians and excellent contributions are heard from Schifrin, Kenny Burrell and Clark Terry. 

Befitting its New Orleans location, there are some nice Schifrin jazz moments here. "New Orleans Procession" became a favorite theme for Schifrin ("Dialogues for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra," "La Nouvelle Orleans," etc) and the Ray Charles theme song became a minor chart hit - though the instrumental version is less of a novelty number. Schifrin re-recorded this score to positive effect in 2001 for release on his own Aleph label in July 2002. 

THE LIQUIDATOR / c. 1965 / MGM   
One of the many James Bond spoof films that began appearing in the mid-60s, THE LIQUIDATOR has a theme that boasts the hyper vocal talents of "Goldfinger" hitmaker Shirley Bassey. The song itself, which became a hit, is just plain goofy. The rest of the soundtrack, however, contains some substantial Schifrin music in a variety of jazz idioms. "Boysie's Bossa (Sax Version)" is straight out of Stan Getz's bossa nova bag. Perhaps most memorable, though, are the seductive flute-and-percussion themes of "The Killer, "Carry On" (the instrumental version of the film's theme) and "Boysie's Bossa." The flute-and-percussion motif, first exploited in his rendition of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. theme, has since become something of a recognizable Schifrin trademark. Interestingly, "Riviera Chase" even sounds like an U.N.C.L.E. outtake. The album's ballads, including "Iris" with Schifrin at the piano, are schmaltzy, yet with the strength of their themes could be rendered more successfully with a bit more muscle. Obviously, though, Schifrin is painting a diverse score - and, overall, he succeeds. The wonderful folks at Film Score Monthly did a tremendous job restoring the soundtrack album - and many unreleased and incredibly Schifrinesque cues - from the film to CD in late 2006.

MURDERER'S ROW / 1966 / Colgems  
A terrific early soundtrack with great, catchy tunes throughout. In only 26 (!) minutes, Schifrin effectively mixes (mid 60s) rock and jazz, spoofs the spy soundtrack and still maintains a clever, intricate integrity. Schifrin's compositional gifts are quite apparent here - because this music is fun to listen to and, to this day, retains an element of intellectual depth. A score like Murderers' Row can reveal just how sensitive and intuitive a composer like Schifrin can be when scoring action and emotion. Fans of Schifrin's Mission: Impossible music will find much to like here. Very hard to find, but highly recommended! 

MARQUIS DE SADE / April 27 and 28, 1966 / Verve   
Now fully engaged in his Hollywood career, Schifrin produced in 1966 what remains truly one of his greatest musical achievements. Essentially a baroque take on jazz, Schifrin creates his own beautiful variations on the classics here. His inspiration is diverse, even divine - Henry Purcell ("Aria"), Bach ("Bossa Antique"), Francis Hopkinson ("Beneath a Weeping Willow Shade"), Telemann ("Old Laces"), even Ramsey Lewis and the Rolling Stones ("The Wig"). The musicianship is first-rate too; especially Schifrin's graceful and evocative piano and Gene Bertoncini's lovely guitar. Without question, a unique, gorgeous and inspired statement and one of the buried treasures in 1960's jazz. Marquis de Sade - which is shorthand for an unwieldy title otherwise known by The Dissection and Reconstruction of Music or, more succinctly, Schifrin/Sade - will certainly appeal to those who savor Schifrin's recent "jazz meets the symphony" series. Schifrin, in fact, retooled such Marquis themes as "The Wig," "The Blues For Sebastian Bach," "Renaissance" and "Bossa Antique" for the recent series. While the original LP was designed to take unrelated advantage of the popularity of Peter Brook's London stage hit, Marat/Sade, Verve's publicity department had a field day with Marquis's advertising; a sample of which goes like this: "For those who think Jung? Don't be a Freud! Jump in with Lalo Schifrin and his jazz analysts for a tiddly, tingly, definitely titillating album of free-swinging jazz. Whether you go for baroque or are off your Rococo, listen to what's been done to music here!" An essential part of Lalo Schifrin's widely diverse musical talents - and the subject of a sequel, released in early 2002.

By Al "He's The King" Hirt -- Arranged and Conducted by Lalo Schifrin. 
A lush, easy-going Brazilian outing, Latin in the Horn is aided substantially by the sophistication Lalo Schifrin brings to Hirt's cotton candy. Schifrin's orchestra waxes elegantly while Hirt's restraint is a pleasant surprise. Even though this outing post-dates the "Bossa Nova" fad by a few years, Schifrin was always masterful in this style (to date, his last journey in this direction except for his disco retakes on this LP's first three tracks on 1976's BLACK WIDOW). Listeners will certainly want to hear the magic Schifrin weaves on beauties like "Taboo," "Angelitos Negros," "Margarita," "Be True To Me" and the two Schifrin originals ("A Sky Without Stars" and "Gringo A Go Go"). Much better than most would think. Issued on Spanish CD in 2002.

MISSION: ANTHOLOGY / 1966-68 / One Way   
The world’s most popular TV show theme is the highlight of what is probably among the best of Schifrin’s collected work. Although many versions of this music now seem to exist, this 1994 collection on One Way is the one to get. It contains the superb 1966 Dot soundtrack LP, the full contents of the 1968 Paramount follow-up, MORE MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and one similarly-crafted theme ("Secret Code") from Schifrin’s Dot LP, THERE’S A WHOLE LOT OF SCHIFRIN GOIN' ON. Highlights abound here on this multi-varied collection of exciting, even thoughtful action cues. Anyone’s list of personal favorites may contain all 22 titles. In addition to the popular and oft-covered theme, you’ll also hear the origin of Portishead’s "Sour Times" ("Danube Incident") and a variety of cues producer Bruce Geller reused for his next collaboration with Schifrin, MANNIX ("Cinnamon," "Mission Blues" and "Midnight Courier"). Often copied, but never matched, Schifrin’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE music is truly some of the best the composer has ever recorded. Highly recommended.

COOL HAND LUKE / 1967 / Dot (MCA)   
Featuring Schifrin's second most famous tune, "Down Here on the Ground" (although it's not named as such anywhere on the record), the tremendous score to Cool Hand Luke is a little more upbeat than the well-respected film it very successfully accompanies. Despite such excellent music, the film beautifully illustrates Schifrin's provocative use of quietness -- underscoring the composer's gift for recognizing the emotional and psychological value of silence. The music, on the other hand, appropriately mixes elements of bluegrass, jazz, country and blues and alternates ideal features for harmonica, banjo, piano and guitar. Many will recognize "Tar Sequence" from its use on news programs (i.e.: ABC-TV). The real gem, though, is "Egg Eating Contest," which accompanies one of the film's most notorious scenes. Like "Sampans" (from Enter the Dragon) Schifrin shows how he can create a memorable medley for the vividness of a single moment. Other compositions worth note: the jazz-blues of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and "Arletta Blues" and the cinematic pleasures of "Bean Time" and "The Chase." The composer released the score on his own Aleph label in 2001, adding five previously unreleased cues and two later symphonic variations of his famous theme.

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH / June 7 and September 7, 1967 / MGM   
A television soundtrack presented as an orchestral cantata. The text and the singing were not heard in the television presentation and Schifrin's music would have been served better without them as well. Schifrin's score has all the appropriate and obvious moments, indeed not unlike some of the cues he drafted for the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series. But German poet Alfred Perry's lyrics are overly melodramatic; though, no doubt heartfelt. Worse, actor Laurence Harvey's pretentious narrative delivery makes it unbearable. The 1968 MGM album has never been issued on CD - and is unlikely to find its way there - but the cover art is certainly well done.

THE FOX / c. 1968 / Warner Bros  
Schifrin's score was nominated for an Academy Award and the eponymous theme became a minor hit in jazz circles thanks to Wes Montgomery's cover version. The composer himself finds enduring value and appeal in the sad, haunting main theme, still performing it at many concert events and recording it for INS AND OUTS (1982), JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY (1992), FILMCLASSICS (1995) and JAZZ GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1999). But overall, this score is unrepentantly dreary and (in such parts as "Roll It Over," awful). Still, the little-seen film (an early effort directed by ON GOLDEN POND's Mark Rydell) and its ever-scarce soundtrack LP are highly celebrated. Although issued on CD by WEA France in 2001, Schifrin re-recorded THE FOX to much better effect in 1999. (See also: the 1999 recording of THE FOX). 

BULLITT / 1968 / Warner Bros.  (video) 
BULLITT is not only one of Lalo Schifrin’s finest film scores but one of the finest and most memorable soundtrack albums of the 1960s. Period. But, oddly, there is very little “score” for a film overflowing with such outstanding music.

The film stars Steve McQueen as San Francisco police detective Frank Bullitt, caught up with protecting a Chicago mobster from vengeful Mafia hit-men while dealing with an ambitious, sleazy politician portrayed by Robert Vaughn. With its riveting story, realistic settings, taut screenplay and quasi-documentary cinematography, it brought a new depth to McQueen’s portrayal of tough characters (this one on the right side of the law).

An essential part of the film’s success was its economical, nervous jazz score; the Argentinean-born, classically trained Schifrin was then at the height of the fame generated by his iconic Mission: Impossible television theme. The film is judiciously spotted, with relatively little “action” music (the famous car chase is unscored) but several atmospheric and evocative source cues. Schifrin himself described it as “very simple” and “completely based on the blues.”

Shortly after recording the film soundtrack, Schifrin led a separate recording for a Warner Bros. album featuring jazz greats Bud Shank (flute), Ray Brown (bass), Howard Roberts (guitar) and Larry Bunker (drums). The 1969 LP has been issued several times on CD (once in Japan and once in Europe) and Schifrin himself re-recorded the music with the renowned WDR Big Band in 2000 for his own Aleph label.

But it wasn’t until late 2009 when the film’s original soundtrack album was first issued in the US, combined with the film’s never-before issued score. Film Score Monthly (FSM) issued the truly definitive edition of the music to BULLITT, combining all 12 tracks from the original album (beautifully re-mastered from the original 1" eight-track master tape) with all 19 of the film score’s original cues – including the magnificent version of the main title theme as heard in the film, which ranks, along with DIRTY HARRY, among the very best Schifrin ever conceived (and which, prior to this release, could only be properly appreciated on Schifrin’s 1990 re-recording heard on the masterful HITCHCOCK MASTER OF MAYHEM).

While some score passages and cues are virtually identical to the record album, many of the film soundtrack’s softer, moodier cues were not chosen for the LP—or had certain passages rewritten. And some were dropped from the film itself, so have never been heard before. Several tracks, such as the acid rock-ish “Hotel Daniels,” the big-band swing of “Room 26” and the reflective samba of “The Aftermath of Love,” are particularly attractive revelations, even for those familiar with the film, that are superior to their album counterparts.

The Film Score Monthly disc reproduces the original LP’s terrific pop-art cover and designer Joe Sikoryak provides a superb layout that effectively utilizes the original’s jazzy Warhol-esque design. The FSM booklet also includes a perceptive, in-depth essay on the film and its score by astute film music specialist John Bender and detailed track-by-track commentary by Alexander Kaplan.

Unfortunately, space did not allow for the inclusion of a vocal version of the BULLITT theme called “The Great Divide” sung by Joanie Sommers and only issued on an extremely rare Japanese-only 45-rpm record. But the good folks at Film Score Monthly have done an otherwise typically beautiful job assembling and presenting this essential and finally-available music. Most highly recommended.

Laugh In's Gary Owens came up with the title. It's basically a collection of fun little pop tunes that sound like outtakes from a cop show...or more probably expanded cues from Schifrin scores of the period ("Two Petals, A Flower and a Young Girl" was featured as a mariachi-styled number which blasted from a car radio in the film THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST). Other titles - like the Bob Dorough-influenced (and inspiring) "Life Insurance" (where a life insurance policy is read verbatim over a grooving little theme) - are probably original to this solo release. There are many nice features here, great acid-trip titles like "Vaccinated Mushrooms" and weird cover art by Apple Graphics (of all people!). Great hippie bachelor-pad music and, perhaps, one of Schifrin's definitive non-film statements from the 1960s (which - of course - is not available on CD).

MANNIX / c. 1969 / Paramount   
This “soundtrack” album ranks among Lalo Schifrin’s best-ever recorded music. Like Schifrin’s BULLITT album, it is not an original soundtrack. Songs were thrown together during the show’s second season in 1968 to capitalize on the show’s success. Whereas another Bruce Geller creation, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, had a “soundtrack” that featured songs named after the show’s characters, the MANNIX album had songs named after the series’ episodes. Invariably, these songs had nothing to do with the episodes and, indeed, few of the songs on this marvelous record were actually used for the show. Schifrin only scored about eight of the show’s episodes and astute listeners will hear only “The End of the Rainbow”, “Warning: Live Blueberries” and an edited version of “Hunt Down” in some of the episodes. Such MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE songs as “Cinnamon”, “Mission Blues” and Richard Hazard’s “Foul Play” were also used in the series. But however accurate a soundtrack this album may be, it makes for some fantastic music. The ¾-time waltz of the main theme is one of TV’s best-known melodies and gets a beautiful performance here (Schifrin modified the theme somewhat for the show on each of the series’ even years). There are some wonderful songs here, including “The Shadow” (especially), “The Edge Of Night”, “Hunt Down”, “Warning: Live Blueberries” and “End Game”. The rest of the album is just plain fun to listen to and, all together, it holds up extremely well many years later. Many of LA’s best studio musicians also give some truly tremendous – and uncredited – performances here (Bud Shank, Plas Johnson, Howard Roberts, Carol Kaye, Emil Richards, among others). Schifrin, himself foiled at reissuing the original album on his own, re-recorded the music quite nicely with the WDR Big Band in Germany in 1999 for his own Aleph label. But somehow the folks at Collectors’ Choice Records finally reissued this album on CD in the summer of 2008, timed almost perfectly to the long-awaited release of the DVD of the first season of MANNIX.

"CHE!" / 1969 and 1997 / Aleph (originally Tetragrammaton 
Schifrin's score for one of the most reviled and long-forgotten epics of the late 60s is a brilliant, varied collection of Latin themes. Featuring nearly a dozen percussionists (including Mongo Santamaria and Armando Peraza) and a deft blend of strings and horns, the CHE! score unlike the film it enhances seems imbued with the dignity of the folk music it explores. Schifrin has always excelled with Latin themes and such exciting pieces as "La Columna" and "Recuerdos" illustrate his talent in providing a provocative canvas on which talented artists -- even studio musicians -- create some of their most evocative music. Originally released as a 1969 LP on Bill Cosby's short-lived label, Tetragrammaton, CHE! was reissued in 1998 on Schifrin's Aleph label with six new tracks (five featuring the stunning guitar work of Juanjo Dominguez) and without two tracks ("Tiempo Pasado" and "Ché (Solo Guitar Version)") from the original LP. Of the new tracks, standouts include the guitar solo, "Tango," the orchestral "Los Andes" and the piano/guitar duet version of the "Che!" theme. Altogether, CHE! is an exceptional reference to Lalo Schifrin's Latin heritage and contains much which is enjoyable and, ultimately, quite memorable.

The hit television show spawned a hit theme for composer Lalo Schifrin. But a full score was not available, so MGM assembled this ersatz collection of Schifrin's MGM film and TV themes. Includes the first recorded version of the title song as well as themes from "Kelly's Heroes," "The Liquidator," "Once a Thief," "Sol Madrid," "The Cincinnati Kid" and "The Venetian Affair." The title track was issued on 45, backed by Schifrin's cover of War's "Spill The Wine" (not included here).

KELLY'S HEROES / June 1970 / MGM   
A popular yet critically-disliked film, Kelly's Heroes benefits by one of Schifrin's most interesting scores. The film, like Robert Altman's M.A.S.H. (released the same year) is a loud, messy and anachronistic view of World War II that exploits the country's discomfort with the embarrassments of the prolonged Vietnam War. Schifrin's music here, much of which is quite good, is highly anachronistic as well; mixing odd and disparate styles of folk, country, rock and military marches. The theme, "Kelly's Heroes," ranks as one of Schifrin's most beguiling themes (along with "Mission: Impossible" and "Bullitt") and sets the film's sardonic tone. "Burning Bridges," in both instrumental and vocal versions sounds very much like an early 70s peace anthem, though the lyric suggests a hippy-like resignation from society. For the sarcastic "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (which Schifrin would later reprise on his own records, JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY and JAZZ MASS), Schifrin employs a kazoo, fuzz guitar and garrish brass. Hank William's country-pop "All For The Love Of Sunshine" was a hit. But, overall, the disparate elements blend in one of Schifrin's surprisingly strong pop-oriented soundtracks. The complete LP soundtrack was beautifully issued on CD in 2005 by Film Score Monthly with the never-before issued score of the film and cues intended for the film but never used.

ROCK REQUIEM / May 1971 / Verve   
Out of print and hard to find, this was released at a time when "rock opera" and concept themes were popular (or interesting to consider). Deftly mixing elements of rock, gospel, jazz and secular music, Schifrin employs a choir and LA studio musicians in this unusual and fascinating tribute "for the dead in the Southeast Asia War." Rock Requiem stands strong as a sequel of sorts to Schifrin's cantata, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1968) and the liturgical Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts (as recorded by Paul Horn in 1964). Worth the attention. 

LA CLAVE / 1972 /  Verve    
Not sure how much of this Latin-pop-jazz experiment is Schifrin's project. It may just be a bunch of faceless studio musicians - or it really is a multi-culti nonet led by the mysterious studio musician, Benny Velarde. But this very obscure record offers some excellent 1973-era Latin dance grooves.  Its best number is Schifrin's kick-ass original "Latin Slide," a dynamite explosion of piano, horns and percussion (also used as a source cue in Schifrin's score to the 1971 film PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW). Schifrin's other original here, the too-brief "Cocoa Leaf" offers more of the same (I'm willing to bet it's Schifrin kicking out the jams on acoustic piano on both tracks). The Schifrin-esque pop jazz of "Angels of Mercy" (which would fit well on ROCK REQUIEM, noted above) is another highlight -- as well as better-than-original covers of "Sally Go Round The Roses" and Lonnie Smith's "Move Your Hand." Some straight pop and one salsa number included. Kind of sloppy production values seem to work in its favor. Surprisingly, this was licensed for issue on CD by Chicago's Dusty Groove in 2007.

Think of it as an underwater version of Schifrin's bug-movie score, The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971). This Ben Gazzara starrer features one of Lalo Schifrin's fully orchestral (plus electronics) scores. Some of the music here is by William McCauley. But whose cues are whose remains undetermined. However, the film - and the music - are most interesting when the action is underwater; some of which brings to mind Schifrin's orchestral embellishments to his own Rock Requiem. The film prominently features actor Walter Pidgeon (1898-1984), who also starred in such Schifrin-scored films as Harry In Your Pocket (1973), The Mask Of Sheeba (1969) and How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1967).

ENTER THE DRAGON / June 1973 / Warner Bros.  (video)
Action films always bring out the best in Schifrin. This is no exception. Using Oriental scales in a familiar 'Blaxploitation' context, Schifrin concocts a hypnotic score, a dynamic theme and provocative variations. The title theme and "Sampans" are Schifrin at his best and offer quite memorable cool-music movie moments. But Portishead fans will most likely recognize "The Human Fly" groove first. Hardcore fans will want to get Warner Video's fancy 1998 "25th Anniversary" box set (featuring a deluxe, remastered version of the video, Bruce Lee documentary, full-color book of the film and production stills) for a complete CD of Schifrin's masterful score -- with more than twice the music found on the original LP soundtrack. Schifrin would also provide an equally enjoyable score for THE BIG BRAWL (starring Jackie Chan), a story with the exact same plot as ENTER THE DRAGON, in 1980 for the same producer. ENTER THE DRAGON also provided the inspiration (and at least one que) to Brett Ratner's terrific 1998 film starring Jackie Chan, RUSH HOUR. It's also interesting to consider ENTER THE DRAGON as further explorations of the music Schifrin crafted for Cal Tjader's SEVERAL SHADES OF JADE (1962).

THE EXORCIST / October - November 1973 / Warner Bros.
Finally, Lalo Schifrin's music for the 1973 hit, THE EXORCIST, can be heard on this beautiful, limited-edition VHS box set (similar to Warner's equally classy ENTER THE DRAGON set released in 1998). Jon Burlingame's excellent liner notes reveal the interesting story about why director William Friedkin despised Schifrin's music and had every note of it removed from his film (also further explored by George Park in the February 1999 issue of Film Score Monthly). Schifrin, it turns out, had been brought in by the film's producer when Friedkin's first choice, Bernard Herrmann, was unavailable. Ultimately, Friedkin used such "found" music as Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (not included here due to contractual problems) and the beautifully haunting near-music of composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Schifrin's three cues - for the never-seen trailer, a lengthy suite and a "Rock Ballad" theme - are simply remarkable. There's something nearly dissonant about his music, totally in keeping with the flavor and feeling of the actual film itself. It's as if Schifrin, composer of the similarly off-setting "Scorpio's Theme" for DIRTY HARRY, had taken a more modern, if not wholly avant-garde view of Herrmann's PSYCHO. For years, rumors have circulated that Schifrin replicated this score for his brilliant score to THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. While not completely true, there are likenesses of the music here to be found in AMITYVILLE's more provocative cues ("Get Out," "The Basement," "Bleeding Walls," and to a lesser extant, "The Ax"). One can only hope Warner Bros. makes this and the complete ENTER THE DRAGON CDs available independent of their well-packaged (though pricey) box sets.

SKY RIDERS / February 12 and 13, 1976 / Aleph
SKY RIDERS surely ranks among the least known of film composer Lalo Schifrin's 100 plus film scores. This 1976 film, which is not even currently on DVD, has gotten its first-ever soundtrack release on the composer's own Aleph label, some 33 years after the fact, while Schifrin's better-known or more desired scores for, say, CHARLEY VARRICK or ST. IVES remain unissued. SKY RIDERS, directed by British director Douglas Hickox (1929-88), who was better known for directing Vincent Price's Shakespearean horror spoof THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) and John Wayne's BRANNIGAN (1975), is basically a kidnap story set apart by aerial shots of hang gliding, said to be something of a fad at the time. According to IMDb, Robert Culp (whose 1964 film RHINO was Schifrin's first American film assignment) plays Bracken, whose life seems perfect until his wife Ellen and their children are kidnapped by terrorists one day. After failed attempts to capture them back by the police, Ellen's ex-husband enters the fray and plans his own rescue attempt. James Coburn (whose films THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST and HARRY IN YOUR POCKET were also scored by Schifrin) plays McCabe, Ellen's ex-husband who hires a crew of professional hang gliders to help him rescue her and the kids from the terrorist's mountain top lair.

The music is typically good by Schifrin standards, but contains absolutely nothing outstanding. Not even a memorable main theme emerges. Recorded a mere month before Schifrin's fusion funk classic BLACK WIDOW (CTI, 1976), SKY RIDERS is anything but what liner notes writer Julie Kirgo claims as "the last, for a time, in that long, innovative line of jazz/funk-dominated scores with which Schifrin made his reputation." There is absolutely no jazz or funk to be heard here. It is a completely orchestral score from the first breath to the last, with no trace or evidence of a foot-tapping beat. Kirgo's claim, which is being used to promote this CD, is more appropriately applied to ST. IVES, scored by Schifrin later that year. This Schifrin score, however, best fits into that style of sweeping symphonic scores that Schifrin had only recently begun exploring starting, perhaps, with 1974's THE FOUR MUSKETEERS.

SKY RIDERS benefits by a conservative use of the cymbalom ("The Terrorists," "The Last Kite"), set off menacingly by the piano's lowest realm ("The Terrorists"), a bouzouki and location-specific Greek folk themes ("Climbers," "Copters and Gliders" and "End Credits" - something he would explore in greater depth on 1979's ESCAPE TO ATHENA/OFFSIDE 7) and beautifully scored circus motifs in "Flying Circus" that prefigure Schifrin's own ROLLERCOASTER later in the year. Notably, "Climbers" in particular accompanies the hang gliding scenes perfectly by combining pizzicato strings with swirling reeds and strings, highlighted by a low-brass riff Schifrin borrowed from his own "The Edge of Night" (from the MANNIX soundtrack album). A brief snatch of the "Adagio" from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez can even be detected - on oboe, of all things - in "Copters and Gliders."

Like other Nick Redman produced CDs of Schifrin's scores, the SKY RIDERS soundtrack consists of several suites that marry short motifs and cues into one long song. Therefore, rather than 20 or 25 individual tracks, this soundtrack offers eight suites that range from two minutes to nine minutes in length. Fortunately, Redman pieced SKY RIDERS together less awkwardly than previous Schifrin soundtrack jobs and there's a sort of coherence that holds the whole thing together rather nicely.

BLACK WIDOW / March 29-30, 1976 / CTI   
Situated in Hollywood since the mid-60s, Schifrin reunited with Creed Taylor in New York to produce this above average collection of pop/jazz/disco in 1976. Recalling some of his earlier (and more commercial) triumphs at Verve, Schifrin delivers first-rate tunes; simple and inventive, funky and intelligent. Terrific cover photography (as expected) by Pete Turner. The 1997 CD release of BLACK WIDOW features four excellent, previously unreleased songs ("Frenesi," "Tabu," an excellent alternate take of "Baia" and and disco-fied "Con Alma"), the surprise addition of George Benson's guitar solos, superior sound reproduction and packaging - and most of the eight tunes on the original album are longer on the CD. Very highly recommended. 

ROLLERCOASTER / c. late 1976 / MCA   
Schifrin uses a calliope throughout this score, much like he uses a zither to establish an environmental mood in ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979) -- so much so, in fact, one who knows this film only by the score would tend to think of it as "Merry-Go-Round" (significantly, one of the titles on this very good soundtrack). The long introduction, "Prologue, Montage," successfully moves through a variety of styles (funhouse, disco, classical) much like a walk through an amusement park - and much like a journey through Lalo Schifrin's apt diversity of styles. Several winners stand out here: the heavily disco-fied "Rollercoaster" (similar to the version on Schifrin's TOWERING TOCCATA), the beautiful Schifrinesque "Portrait of Harry" and the wonderful swing of "Apple Turnover," a homage of sorts to Count Basie (for whose band Schifrin wrote several arrangements in the early 60s). The soundtrack was re-issued in early 2001 - with quite good sound - by the composer himself on his own Aleph label with six never-before heard tracks ("Reflections In The Window," "That's Him," "Tension Rock," "Persistence" and "Stars & Stripes Forever"). Very much worth the time and effort of true film-music aficionados. 

TOWERING TOCCATA / October/December 1976 / CTI 
On this, the second of Lalo Schifrin's two CTI releases, disco again propels the music. But Schifrin's clever writing and dynamic orchestration make much of this music more interesting and less dated than so much of the disco-jazz being produced during this period (especially at CTI). Ideal deployment of top soloists like Jeremy Steig (flute) and Eric Gale (guitar) help too - although it's less clear who's playing keyboards, Schifrin or Clark Spangler. Here, Schifrin features several of his recent film themes ("The Eagle Has Landed," "Rollercoaster" and "Day of the Animals"), one of his TV themes (the short-lived "Most Wanted") and an interesting disco version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue. Highlights include "Theme From King Kong" and Schifrin's "Midnight Woman." This hard to find LP (reissued on CD in Japan in 2000 and the UK in 2004) is certainly worth hearing but the American owners will probably never issue it on CD, at least with the original cover, which shows Schifrin (in furs) towering over the sadly decimated World Trade Center towers.

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED / 1976-77 / Aleph  
This release on Aleph is a vast improvement over prior issues of Lalo Schifrin's interesting orchestral score to this middle-brow World War II adventure drama. This edition of THE EAGLE HAS LANDED offers the complete original film score, adding 13 cues and 33 minutes to what's been issued before on Entre Act and Label X. Schifrin keeps the minimal orchestra on low burn, deftly (and sparingly) employing the cymbalom to add mysterious, almost pulsating effect. The film's strongest themes include the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-esque "Eagle in Danger" and the previously unreleased love theme, "The Swan," otherwise known as "On Rainy Afternoons," in Schifrin arrangements for Barbra Streisand and Stan Getz and "Eagles in Love" from Schifrin's TOWERING TOCCATA.  Overall, this now complete score offers an ideal opportunity to partake in Schifrin's genuinely intriguing orchestral gifts.

FREE RIDE / January 31, February 1 and 2, 1977 / Pablo  
By Dizzy Gillespie - Composed and Arranged by Lalo Schifrin. Rather generic, yet hook-laden instrumental disco/pop themes that somehow seem to bury Gillespie. Apparently this is the way he wanted it. But it does contain the grooving "Free Ride", which Schifrin performed with Jimmy Smith to slightly better advantage on THE CAT STRIKES AGAIN.

DREAM MACHINE / January 23-27, 1978 / Mushroom  
By Paul Horn. Unfortunately inconsequential and fairly generic disco-pop originals by Lalo Schifrin with LA studio musicians chugging away behind the flautist. Notable performances on "Witch Doctor" and the title track are certainly well worth hearing. 

THE FOUR MUSKETEERS / poss. 1978 / Label X   
An outstanding CD containing Schifrin's symphonic suites for THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974), THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976) and VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED (1976). Each score is quite different; but heard together, Schifrin's logic and passion reveals one very distinct voice. THE FOUR MUSKETEERS is the most exciting (and successful) of the three; blending a Baroque formality with light-hearted whimsy -- a perfect complement to Richard Lester's film. "Overture," "Athos Story" and "Milady's Theme" are excellent, and reminiscent of Schifrin's go-for-baroque jazz album, MARQUIS DE SADE (1966). The "Main Title" sequence of THE EAGLE HAS LANDED provides a dark, ominous beginning to an intricate and intriguing  suite -- one that rises to the surface with its very own drama. The VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED suite somehow gets lost in this collection; seemingly meandering until the infectious (and rather out of place) Latin dance number "Hotel Nacionale" kicks in. Very highly recommended, and one of the few references for Schifrin's outstanding symphonic talents. 

GYPSIES / c. 1978 / Tabu 
Lalo Schifrin’s 1978 switch to Tabu Records, a label whose few soul and reggae acts (S.O.S. Band, Alexander O’Neal, the Wailers) achieved quite a modicum of popular success, seemed rather unusual. But GYPSIES, the first of two albums Schifrin recorded for Tabu, suggested there was hope for this disc’s commercial popularity. Here, Schifrin continued exploring the disco rhythms he became fascinated with on his two previous CTI records. However, this all-instrumental program eschews improvisation (and much real jazz content) almost altogether, concentrating on Schifrin’s dynamic, tightly-constructed arrangements. Each of the eight pieces actually suggests a collection of disco concertos, with synthesizers and electric keyboards stating most of the main themes. A considerable number of LA’s best studio musicians, particularly the horns of Bobby Bryant, Oscar Brashear, Tony Ortega and Ernie Watts, punctuate throughout. There is much here that is admirable, particularly "To Cast A Spell" (which bears similarities to "Robbery Suspect" from Schifrin’s SUDDEN IMPACT score), "Fortune Tellers" and "Moonlight Gypsies." It would be fascinating (and logical) to hear Schifrin retool some of this music – particularly the pretty "King of Hearts" – for a symphony orchestra.

BOULEVARD NIGHTS / c. 1979 / Warner Bros.  
Very disco-oriented soundtrack to a long-forgotten film. George Benson tortures the otherwise nice "Street Tattoo" (which Stan Getz covers much better on CHILDREN OF THE WORLD).  Side one features all-vocal pop numbers. Side two is all instrumental and much more absorbing and interesting, especially "Boulevard Nights," "Dolor" and the pretty "Last Act."

CHILDREN OF THE WORLD / Dec. 20-21, 1978 and March 1979 / Columbia   
By Stan Getz - Composed, arranged and conducted by Lalo Schifrin (except for the unbearable and too-politically inappropriate "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"). Pleasant, lightweight tunes played with slick prettiness by Mr. Getz. In their second and final collaboration, Getz and Schifrin pull off a nice set of easy-listening Schifrin originals. Most memorable are "Street Tattoo" (from BOULEVARD NIGHTS), "Around the Day in Eighty Worlds" (which Jon Faddis re-interprets quite nicely on Schifrin's FIREBIRD) and "The Dreamer." All in all, it makes for exceptionally good light jazz but it shies a bit away from being entirely memorable.

NO ONE HOME / c. 1979 / Tabu  
Heavily disco-oriented pop outing by Schifrin with lyrics and vocalists on every track. Nothing too memorable. But "Memory of Love" (with lyrics by Maya Angelou and later resurrected as an instrumental under the title "Justine") and "Middle of the Night" have worthwhile moments buried underneath the vocals.

FIRE AND ICE / c. 1979 / Butterfly  
Pure disco, presumably intended for clubs and the single male. There's no artist or group credited here. Schifrin wrote the music and produced (wife Donna is co-writer of the lyrics) and someone named Elton Ahi handles most of the instrumental chores. Surprisingly dull, given the perky beats and Schifrin's involvement. One of the ballads, "Enchanted Flame," is also covered by Schifrin on NO ONE HOME.

NIGHT FLIGHT / unknown date / Avanz  
Schifrin did no more than produce this all-disco date (probably in or around 1979) but did none of the composing, arranging, conducting or even any of the playing he's often alleged to do here. Still, it's pretty good for disco, if that's your bag. The titles favor a flying theme ("Turbulence," which was the name of the original album, "Supersonic," Ticket to Tomorrow") and the vocalists 'ooh' and 'ahh' throughout as if it was the greatest sexual thrill ride imaginable. Honestly, though, it stands strong among most European disco of the era.

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR / 1979 / American International  
Like Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone, Lalo Schifrin creates symphonic film scores that seem to resonate more with sounds for the ages than his intended classic works. The Amityville Horror, unlike the b-film it accompanies, is such a masterpiece. This is a haunting, lyrical suite, obviously indebted to Herrmann (an early Schifrin influence, and later a friend). But, thankfully, inspired in intelligent, exploratory ways. Rumor has had it for years that much of this music was recycled from Schifrin's rejected score to The Exorcist (1973). While this is clearly not true,  it's not too difficult to hear how ideally this music could have suited William Friedkin's classic. The sing-song theme of this cheeky 1979 thriller, sung with gentle gasps and childish la-las of a female voice, is insanely memorable. Admittedly, it possesses you. An unpredictable storm of strings and unfamiliar sounds bring the chills home. A worthy disco version of the theme is also included and not entirely out of place either. For the record, Schifrin has scored many of director Stuart Rosenberg's other films: Brubaker (1980), Love and Bullets (1979), Voyage of the Damned (1976), WUSA (1970) and Cool Hand Luke (1967). The Amityville Horror is among some of the finest orchestral work Schifrin has ever done. Re-recorded by the composer in 2002 - without the great disco variation, but, however, with quite a few newly issued themes from the magnificent score - for his own Aleph label. Jon Burlingame contributes typically informative and incisive notes to the CD.

ESCAPE TO ATHENA / 1979 / Seven Seas  
The silly, laborious film was a real dog and featured a motley crew of b-listers including Roger Moore, Telly Savalas, Elliott Gould and Sonny Bono. Schifrin's lovely Greek-inspired score, on the other hand, is a work of genuine depth, well-considered passion and intellectual beauty. Initially issued on LP only in Japan, the main theme is a gorgeous, infectious slice of Schifrin brilliance, entirely steeped in his study of Greek folk music and a catchy drone that offers the film something far greater than it deserves. The soundtrack also features hit-makers-of-the-moment, Heatwave, doing an incongruous disco-fied "Keep Tomorrow For Me" (presumably composed by Schifrin). Rarely heard, but one of Schifrin's masterpieces of film music. 

One of the dumbest big-budget films of the 1970s gets suited with a cast of TV hams and international film stars of questionable merit doing their best to act serious and surprised by unbelievable misfortunes aboard the world's fastest plane. Lalo Schifrin provides a high-octane number of dramatic orchestral cues to complement the action, including a majestic "news at 11" main theme (heard on a 1979 45-RPM release on the MCA label that also features a silly disco song not heard in the film). Schifrin also scored director David Lowell Rich's films See how They Run (1965), The Mask Of Sheeba (1969) and Eye Of The Cat (1969) as well as producer Jennings Lang's films The Sting II (1983), The Nude Bomb (1980), Nunzio (1978), Rollercoaster (1977) and Charley Varrick (1973). 

The fifth of six films Lalo Schifrin scored for director Stuart Rosenberg is an action adventure starring Charles Bronson and his wife, Jill Ireland. The hammy acting by all involved is overshadowed by some genuinely affecting moments (including Rod Steiger as a Mafia don with a speech impediment and a slightly sentimental streak), well-photographed scenes and one of Schifrin's more melancholy action scores. The main theme interchanges the orchestra and cymbalom (evoking a mysterious Switzerland, where much of the action unfolds) with the 'ol Western guitar and harmonica cliché (representing Bronson's Arizona homestead and his Clint Eastwood-inspired modern cowboy cop). Listen to the end title to hear the beauty of Schifrin's moody theme. 

SERIAL / 1980 
A funny and long-forgotten film that lampoons the 1970s-era Northern California "Me Generation." Schifrin's music here is, perhaps appropriately, less a score than a series of good, yet brief disco and rock-inflected source cues. The music never found life on a soundtrack album, even though the bland theme song, "A Changing World" (with lyrics by Norman Gimbel), is rather blandly sung by second-tier pop star Michael "Bluer Than Blue" Johnson. Serial was produced by Sidney Beckerman, who also produced the Schifrin-scored films Kelly's Heroes (1970), Joe Kidd (1972) and the TV film, A Stranger Is Watching (1982).

Lalo Schifrin's orchestral style had clearly developed a signature by this point - audibly evident in his scores for the other films of James Goldstone (1931-1999): Rollercoaster (1977), Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess (TV: 1983) and Earth*Star Voyager (TV: 1988). Occasional nods to the styles of both Bernard Herrmann (who did several of the similar, yet somehow more believable, fantasy films of Ray Harryhausen) and John Williams (who scored three of producer Irwin Allen's previous disaster films) seem inevitable. But the score, like the film, amounts to less than the sum of its pricey parts.

The score, unlike the corny film, is quite highly regarded - and caused Schifrin to explore the rewards of conducting orchestras hereafter. But, despite the presence of some Beethoven and Prokofiev, it is not altogether memorable. Schifrin's pieces are a bit dry - classical wannabes - and the pop is a little too sugary.

THE BIG BRAWL / 1980 / RCA   
Schifrin's theme to this film stands as one of his most memorable ever. This soundtrack, released on vinyl only in Japan, contains much that is reminiscent of Schifrin's big-band Verve dates from the mid 60s. Although the personnel remains unknown, some excellent jazz players are clearly involved. Many variations of the catchy theme are here - and some great unidentified performances are too. 

THE NUDE BOMB / c. 1980
Garish farce looks and feels like the many 60s-era Technicolor Bond spoofs, which pre-date the far superior Austin Powers films. Schifrin's mostly cool score, though, makes it sound like a mid 70s cop show. The film features the Donna Summer-like disco theme, "You're Always There," sung by ex-Raylette Merry Clayton with lyrics by Bond wordsmith Don Black and several nice - and appropriate - cues in homage to John Barry, John Williams and Bernard Herrmann. The Nude Bomb is another one of the
Jennings Lang productions Schifrin scored - The Sting II (1983), Airport 79 (1979), Nunzio (1978), Rollercoaster (1977) and Charley Varrick (1973) - and the second Don Adams project Schifrin worked on after the remarkably unfunny TV series, The Partners (1971).

THE CAT STRIKES AGAIN . . . / LaserLight / July 1980  
By Jimmy Smith - Arranged and Conducted by Lalo Schifrin. The best and most popular of Lalo Schifrin's collaborations in the 1960s (Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, Paul Horn and Jimmy Smith) resulted in follow-up recordings beginning in the late 70s. Perhaps because of the infusion of disco at the time, most of these reunions were much less than spectacular. I find this one, reissued on CD on a low-budget label but now out of print again, to be an exception. Jimmy Smith, at the time suffering from a where-is-he-now career slump due to the proliferation of electronic keyboards, sticks mostly to organ here and plays some great Schifrin themes: "The Big Brawl" (from the Jackie Chan film Schifrin scored), "Down Here on the Ground" (one of the better versions from COOL HAND LUKE) and "Free Ride" (a much-improved, still-disco version of the Gillespie-Schifrin tune). Smith's "Layin Low," "Where is Magdalena?" and the out-blues of "In Search of Truth" are great too. Features Ronnie Foster on piano, Howard Roberts and Dennis Budimer on guitar, Ray Brown on bass and Grady Tate on drums. A great outing.

CAVEMAN / 1981  
Lalo Schifrin's score to this little-known Ringo Starr film from 1981 was first issued on the composer's Aleph label some two and half decades later in 2005. While it is a surprising choice to receive soundtrack treatment, there is little doubt that CAVEMAN ranks as one of Schifrin's best and most memorable scores from the Eighties. The film is completely without dialogue, so Schifrin's music must fill up a lot of space. Indeed, Schifrin contributed 68 cues, covering nearly 65 minutes of film time. Here, as in Schifrin's previous Aleph release, LES FELINS, producer Nick Redman combines and edits the cues into a mere 10 titles, unfortunately leaving out about 10 minutes of music. Perhaps the most unforgivable fault here is the way the caveman's chant, depicting the birth of music itself (!), is whittled down to a blip in the Main Title's collection of cues. This infectious delight, which is a real joy to see depicted in the film, is so memorable that it effectively serves as the film's primary theme. As presented, though, it sounds like little more than a riff that's merely part of Schifrin's overall creation. And what a creation. Schifrin's craftiest orchestral writing is on display here. He weaves high strings (or reeds) and low horns together with harp and percussion flourishes to magically suggest many of the most basic human motions and emotions. He also works his tongue into his cheek by appropriating such "Jurassic classic" references to Ravel's "Bolero" and the 2001 theme (among others), a beautiful nod to the the film's classic slapstick quality. Such a rousing score certainly deserved a better presentation than this.  

INS AND OUTS / March 29 & 30, 1982 / Nautilus   
A nice quintet session featuring Schifrin's piano (no synthesizers) and Sam Most's flutes. Nice to hear Schifrin playing in a small group, but no fireworks. While the album was one of the earliest CD releases on the Nautilus label, it was reissued on CD in 2003 by Schifrin's Aleph label with a live performance in New York titled INS AND OUTS AND LALO LIVE AT THE BLUE NOTE.

This LP contains some of the major themes from four of the Dirty Harry films released through 1983. Released in 1983 on Clint Eastwood's short-lived Viva label, expanded in 2002 for Schifrin's DIRTY HARRY ANTHOLOGY CD and made moot by 2008 with the release of the complete scores to all four of the films covered here.

THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND / 1983 / Varese Sarabande / Aleph
This worthy pop-jazz collection will appeal as easily to Schifrin's late 70s jazz listeners as his Hollywood fans. The nicely-varied score also suits Sam Peckinpah's last film ideally, mixing suburban easy-listening jazz with appropriately electronic action and conspiracy cues. The 1999 Aleph CD retains the excellent cover art from the 1983 Varese LP and adds six titles ("Water Games," "The Face of Death," "Love Theme," "Conspiracy Waltz," The Conspirators," "Jesus Loves Me") to the LP's original ten. The dominant themes ("Osterman Weekend," "Face of Love") are strong, melodic and typically memorable. But the best tracks are "Status Symbol," "The Face of Death" and "Omega."

Schifrin's compelling Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra, written especially for the soloist featured here, is a thoughtful and lovely work. The first movement, "Allegro Moderato E Maestoso," weaves together many of the themes Schifrin so brilliantly explored in his marvelous score for The Four Musketeers. But, here, he rethinks the context and provides Romero with a sensitive, romantic canvas which departs from the source in the second and third movements. Romero performs Schifrin's concerto on side one, and Villa-Lobos' Concerto for Guitar & Small Orchestra on side two. Deserves to be issued on CD. 

A.D.- ANNO DOMANI / December 1984 / BBC   
A complex orchestral score, this cross-section of music from the BBC-TV series well represents Schifrin's estimable compositional talents. Unfortunately, as successfully evocative as it sets out to be, the score seems too heavily indebted to the magisterial influence of the prolific Ennio Morricone - especially when the choir is deployed. Perhaps the problem is that the music is suited more to enhancing dramatized emotions (of love, uncertainty, cruelty, madness and faith as Schifrin states on the cover's liner notes) than exploring the emotions. With great subtlety, however, Schifrin weaves strings and winds into a seamless, dramatic force and continues showing his outstanding talent for affective, memorable themes ("A.D. Main Theme," "The Fisherman"). Interesting, just not engrossing.

Excellent 80s style action score for this great Tommy Lee Jones action feature that also includes an oily performance by personal-injury pitchman Robert Vaughn - seen in other Schifrin-related works: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Venetian Affair and Bullitt

One of the few occasions Schifrin has used an orchestral setting for an action film, The Fourth Protocol is slow to reveal its charms. But the charms are there, tucked away though they may be ("Fourth Protocol," "Uranium I, Uranium II, How About A Drink?, Heathrow" and "Windows" especially). The theme itself suggests a threat (a war cry or a death chant?) and Schifrin brilliantly uses woodwinds (in unison) and a panoply of strings to imply the tension in the drama's basic counterpoint. An observation may be in order here: If Bernard Herrmann had scored Mission: Impossible, it might sound something like this. 

This is an exact reissue of LES SOLISTES FRANCAIS, a 1988 performance issued on the French Cybelia label. Schifrin himself gives this lovely performance a wider hearing now, simply having secured the rights for issue on his own Aleph label. Beginning with Stravinsky's sprightly animated "Petrouchka," it is clear to see where its conductor derives inspiration for his more orchestral film scores. Schifrin's own 25-minute double bass concerto, commissioned and performed here by bassist Gary Karr, makes for a logical and equally dynamic progression. The darkness of the bass's deeper countenances is nicely balanced with an inventive number of the composer's lighter touches for orchestra. Considered as a film score with the double bass as a star, this makes for one of Schifrin's stronger and more buoyant full-scale compositions. The orchestra is brought back out front for Ravel's effervescent and highly entertaining "Ma Mere l'Oye," another animated work one believes Schifrin must love to conduct (passages of this piece and the Stravinsky piece surely had great effect on Bernard Herrmann, another Schifrin influence). This is a lovely record, graceful throughout and more often than not, entertainingly engaging.

CANTOS AZTECAS / 1988 / Pro Arte / Aleph
Unusual and not altogether successful cantata featuring Placido Domingo. Based on the poetry of the twelfth century Aztec prince Nexahuacoyotl, this six-part operatic outing was recorded live in October 1988 at the Pyramids of Tcotihuacan, Mexico. Only the last two movements, "Zan te te yamelli" and "Ma oc on ichiuhthua," have that attention-rousing originality Schifrin is known for. Domingo sounds fine and the Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus are recorded wonderfully well. Unfortunately the concept here is more interesting than the execution.

BERLIN BLUES / 1988 / Milan   
A FOOTLOOSE-meets-FAME hodge-podge that features all the diversity of singer/actress Julia Migene's capabilities: from techno pop ("Ain't Seen Nothing Like Me") and theater-style dramatics ("Musicians") to smoky jazz ballads ("Will I Ever Know") and Mozart. Schifrin scores six equally diverse instrumentals, highlighted by the film's set piece ("Musica," a variation of "You Could Be The Song") and the exceptional jazz ballad, "Cadenza Variations." It never became the pop hit it was intended and perhaps deserved to be. But BERLIN BLUES is exceptionally well tailored to the theater and may one day find success there.

DON QUIXOTE / 1989 / Prometheus   
It is easy to assume Schifrin’s score to this 1989 Spanish television film has much in common with his music to The Four Musketeers (1974). Unfortunately, it doesn’t. The superior Musketeers score has much more memorable moments. More disappointingly, Don Quixote is saddled with a theme (repeated several times) that sounds like a Western version of the “Theme From Star Trek.” Otherwise, this score – much of which the film’s director chose not to use in the film - possesses several nice passages that, despite the resources of the entire Madrid Symphony Orchestra, depend on only a few instruments interacting with each other at one time. Of note are the medieval delight, “The Shepherds,” the hypnotic “Arabian Dance” and the Bernard Herrmann-esque “Windmills or Giants?”/”Don Quixote And The Books.” The film’s producer, Emiliano Pedra, also collaborated with Schifrin on Berlin Blues. Interesting, but not essential.

HITCHCOCK MASTER OF MAYHEM / Aug. 2 & 3, 1990 / Pro Arte/Intersound   
Excellent orchestral CD featuring arranger and conductor Lalo Schifrin's take on seven well-known Hitchcock scores (honoring the originals quite well) as well as outstanding updates of his own "Bullitt," "Mannix," "Mission: Impossible" and "Dirty Harry" themes. Reissued in 1997 in "home theater" sound as Masters of Mayhem, with a reproduction of Edward Munch's painting, The Scream, on the cover (inspiration for the production design of the music-less Hitchcock thriller, The Birds). Either way, highly recommended. 

ROMANCING THE FILM / c. 1991-92 / Pro Arte   
A symphonic compilation of recognizable tunes associated with popular movies, ROMANCING THE FILM is neither necessary nor interesting. Indeed, none of the performances rate much of a mention other than William Braughton's playfully arranged "Little Mermaid Medley" and Schifrin's after-hours version of "As Time Goes By" (which he also plays on 1992's JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY and 1995's filmclassics). The fact that his piano here is muffled and distant implies romantic reverie and shows Schifrin is constantly aware of his music's ambiance. Otherwise, it would be difficult to see where or how Schifrin had anything at all to do with this project were his name not prominently on the cover.

A warm, well-conceived collection of romantic pop songs featuring Jose Carreras's sincere and sensitive interpretations, aided by Lalo Schifrin's deft and delicate arrangements. Because Carreras, in Johnny Mathis territory here, sounds comfortable singing this material, the overall effect is similar, but superior, to the medleys Schifrin arranges for the Three Tenors, in which Carreras also participates. Appropriately, most of the songs here are known from their affiliation to film and television shows. Schifrin contributes two of his own themes, the memorable "La Verdad de tu Amor" (theme from THE FOX with Spanish lyrics added) and the surprisingly synth/guitar driven anthem "Share the Dream" (from 1994's MANHATTAN MERINGUE). He also contributes exquisite interpretations of "Insensatez" (first performed on 1962's PIANO, STRINGS & BOSSA NOVA), "Besame Mucho," "Les Feuilles Mortes (also on FILMCLASSICS) and a "Bolero"-like reading of "Et Maintenant."

JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY / Nov. 1992 / Atlantic   
An inevitable move for a classically-trained composer and conductor with a predilection for the improvisational nature of jazz, this CD is the first in Schifrin's "jazz meets the symphony" series, if one discounts the superior NEW FANTASY (1964) and MARQUIS DE SADE (1966). Suites include tributes to Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, popular Schifrin tunes and familiar standards. As an orchestrator, Schifrin attempts to break the barriers which too often prevent jazz and the classics to interact. The first of six sets (so far) is perhaps the least successful. But Schifrin's own "Bach to the Blues" and the fascinating "Brush Strokes" (which weds variants of Schifrin's "The Big Brawl" theme with his "Variations," a staple from the first season of MANNIX) are certainly worth hearing. With Ray Brown and Grady Tate. A Grammy Award winner.  (See also: JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY COLLECTION).

Schifrin's title sequence, oddly reminiscent of Ry Cooder, is beautiful; too good for such a pointless, juvenile comedy film. 

MORE JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY / December 1993 / Atlantic   
On this disc, Schifrin's classical-jazz marriage rises above the odds against its success. The two long suites included here are tremendously appropriate tributes to both Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. In each case, Schifrin's orchestrations are sensational and exciting and stay true to the contexts he explores. The remainder of the program is seemingly familiar, yet the way Schifrin's arrangements dress them up is something new and fascinating. Schifrin's infrequent piano is like a sly character sneaking in and out - with witty comments each time he makes himself heard. The addition of James Williams, Paquito D'Rivera and Dizzy-heir Jon Faddis contributes tremendously. Bassist Ray Brown, on the other hand, is sublime and the session's real star. Highly recommended.  (See also: JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY COLLECTION).

FIREBIRD / January 1995 / Four Winds   
With Schifrin's third in a series of "jazz meets the symphony," his jazz mates and the London Philharmonic Orchestra honor Fats Waller and, in an especially well-conceived suite, Charlie Parker and Charles Ives. The gems here, however, are the less weighty tunes: Joe Zawinul's "Birdland," a take of "Mission: Impossible" wedded to the world's second most famous 5/4 tune, "Take Five," and the baroque swing of "Eine Kleine Jazz Musik" (an instrumental version of Schifrin's cool "Beneath A Weeping Willow Shade"). "Firebird" was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1997. Hard to find on its own, but this worthwhile disc can also be found as part of Aleph's JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY COLLECTION.

LILI'UOKALANI SYMPHONY / Feb. 7-8, 1995, and March 27, 1995 / Urtext  
This 57-minute work, a tribute of sorts to Queen Lili'uokalani (the monarch who ruled the Kingdom of Hawaii until it was overthrown by the United States just before the turn of the century), is, at turns, graceful, evocative, contemplative and enchanting. Its beauty is most apparent and appealing during the "Fourth Movement," when Schifrin's memorable compositional magic shines through. (Although it appears to be a sort of an "exotic" work, the Lili'uokalani Symphony is very much a traditional 20th Century orchestral performance.) The rest of the symphony, especially the more remarkable "First Movement," strives to establish the subject's themes of a peaceful Polynesian history, the resolve of the queen to maintain her province and the inevitable "winds of change" that force Hawaii into the United States. Reminiscent more of a cinematic ambiance (to these ears, John Williams) than of Schifrin's classical models, Messian or Stravinsky. Interesting, but not as essential as it could have been.

A CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS / December 1995 / Erato-Elektra  
José Carreras/Natalie Cole/Plácido Domingo – Music arranged and adapted by Lalo Schifrin. Another one of the "Christmas in Vienna" series, but only Natalie Cole sounds comfortable and credible here. Carreras and Domingo are slumming, and, frankly, sound silly. You'd really have to be a fan of these guys to enjoy this. 

/ Motor
A superb, and vastly necessary compilation of some of Schifrin's very coolest tunes, released in Germany in 1996. Includes "Mission: Impossible" and "Jim on the Move" (from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE); "The Wave," "Lalo's Bossa Nova," "Maria" and "Rio After Dark" (from PIANO, STRINGS & BOSSA NOVA); "The Man From THRUSH" and "The Cat" (from ONCE A THIEF); "Bachaianas Brasileiras #5" (from NEW FANTASY); "Apacondra Soul" and "The 'In' Crowd" (from an unreleased Schifrin session for Verve in 1965); "Bullitt (Main Title)" and "On The Way To San Mateo" (from the BULLITT soundtrack); "Danube Incident" from MORE MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE; "Dirty Harry" (the 1972 Verve 45) and "Theme From Medical Center" - plus Jimmy Smith's version of Schifrin's "Mission: Impossible" (with a unique Oliver Nelson arrangement Schifrin's always admired). Compiled by Frank Jastfelder and designer and Marina Records founder, Stefan Kassel. 

FILMCLASSICS / 1997 (December 8, 1995) / Aleph
FilmclassicsThe first release on Lalo Schifrin's own Aleph label, FILMCLASSICS presents a typical sampling of the maestro's film music presentations. Similar in nature to programs Henry Mancini and John Williams used to serve up, FILMCLASSICS offers a diverse, familiar menu of popular film music fare. One would hope for a bit more of Schifrin's themes (only "The Fox" is featured and an excellent version of "Mission: Impossible," with Schifrin on fire at the piano, is left off altogether). Vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Julia Migenes are occasionally featured as is Schifrin's piano. But the greater interest lies in Schifrin's ability to weave instrumental medleys together as expertly as he does in the rousing "Western Medley" and, especially, the masterful "Classics Medley." But no Mancini? No Herrmann?

Auvidis (1998)/Urtext (2001)
The generic-looking cover of this disc's first issue (on Auvidis) bears the artistic stamp "Musique & Cinema" - an excellent summary of the classically-oriented music found within. Concierto Caribeño is an effervescent three-piece movement featuring flautist Marisa Canales, employing passages of Schifrin's excellent CHE! score. And the guitar concerto, originally written for Angel Romero (who recorded it in 1984), borrows some of the superior themes found in Schifrin's THE FOUR MUSKETEERS score. What is perhaps most significant here, though, is the near dissonant Trópicos. This exciting four-movement piece contains provocative sounds unusual for Schifrin and has the haunting menace that suggests a disturbing film like Rosemary's Baby (or perhaps even THE EXORCIST). This disc ranks among Schifrin's best classical work.

SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN / 1999 (c. 1997) / Aleph
Lalo Schifrin returns to the more lyrical style of THE FOX and THE COMPETITION with his score to John Hough's 1996 film, SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN, their second collaboration following 1978's RETURN FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN. The theme, performed in English and Italian by Placido Domingo (with lyrics by Tim Rice) and more notably as an instrumental ("Mike and Maggie"), is in fact quite similar to the emotional allusions stirred by Schifrin in his theme to "The Fox." One suspects Schifrin feels very strongly about the film's story of a young concert pianist in love. The remainder of the soundtrack is a varied collection that offers a very pretty pop song by Simply Red ("We're In This Together"), pianist Jeffrey Biegel's solo on Balakirev's "Islamey" and Schifrin's return to the disco-pop of "No-One Home" (the title track to his 1979 album NO ONE HOME). The disc's centerpiece, though, is Schifrin's 42-minute, three-part "Piano Concerto #2 (The Americas)," a grandiloquent Gershwin-meets-Franz Waxman work commissioned by Steinway in 1992 for the THE 21st CENTURY PIANO PROJECT. Here, it is wonderfully captured by the Müncher Rundfunkorchester with concert pianist Jeffrey Biegel moving flawlessly through a variety of interesting styles (including a brief sketch on Schifrin's BOULEVARD NIGHTS theme) that suits the film admirably.

GILLESPIANA IN COLOGNE / 1998 (November 1996) / Aleph
GillespianaA true joy, GILLESPIANA IN COLOGNE revisits the classic five-part jazz suite Lalo Schifrin created for trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie in 1960. It is a brilliant, consistently inventive work that has lost none of its appeal or sheen over nearly four decades worth of time. Surprisingly, GILLESPIANA has not been recorded since its initial debut in 1960 until now -- although Gillespie often performed the work throughout his career and Schifrin presented a 35th anniversary version at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 1995. The work was originally intended to spotlight the soloists in Dizzy Gillespie’s working quintet (with Schifrin on piano, Leo Wright on alto and flute, Art Davis on bass and Chuck Lampkin on drums) against the sterling backdrop of a richly textured brass section. Here, Schifrin is caught live at a 1996 concert with the quite capable WDR Big Band and in the worthy company of Jon Faddis on trumpet, Paquito D’Rivera on alto and Heiner Wiberny on flute. Schifrin himself is again at the piano. All are more than up to the task (in fact, Faddis probably knows the original better than Schifrin) and each produces work that stands head-and-shoulders in quality with the standard. The disc is rounded out with Villa Lobos’s enchanting "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5," for which Schifrin preserves the same gentle, swaying samba arrangement he created for his 1964 LP, NEW FANTASY. Again utilizing the all-brass backdrop, Schifrin allows the guitar to set the mood. But instead of featuring his piano as he did on the original, he lets Markus Stockhausen’s trumpet state the theme (interesting to note that nothing from Jimmy Smith and Lalo Schifrin’s 1964 disc THE CAT, which also highlights the brass-and-soloist concept, is featured here). It's always a pleasure to welcome Lalo Schifrin back to jazz. But brilliant, timeless work like GILLESPIANA is cause to celebrate.

TANGO / Deutsche Grammophon / Jan and May 1997
TANGO is a beautiful score that is among Lalo Schifrin's great musical achievements. Utilizing a small ensemble of piano, bandoneon and a few stringed instruments, Schifrin here explores his own heritage and celebrates the allure of this provocative, evocative dance music. About one third of the compositions are the composer's originals and include the ingeniously spirited theme, "Tango del Atardecer," and the engagingly orchestral "La Represion" (which has been performed on its own as a concert piece and bears similarities to recent orchestral maneuvers Schifrin has outlined on "Los Andes" from CHE! and, surprisingly, points of departure from the RUSH HOUR score). The remainder of the score is Schifrin's passionately assembled homage to tango music and features a number of the genre's most popular works. This beautiful score is a significant milestone in Lalo Schifrin's prodigious and diverse output and stands strong as a great work of art, separate from the artful film its meant to enhance.

DIRTY HARRY ANTHOLOGY / 1998 (1971-83) / Aleph (video)
This CD collects some of Lalo Schifrin's music for three of his four DIRTY HARRY films. Like John Barry's Bond music, Schifrin's music did much to define the series. But it was the experimental, almost avant-garde mix of jazz, rock and classical motifs of the first film's themes ("Dirty Harry's Creed" and "Scorpio's Theme" especially) which set this music apart in 1971 and keeps it relevant and vital today. Of the 42 minutes of music collected here, five of the seven DIRTY HARRY tracks are issued for the first time, as are four of the five MAGNUM FORCE tracks and four of the seven SUDDEN IMPACT tracks (although the packaging does not identify which tracks belong to which film). Lots of problems persist here: many cues are missing, the "Dirty Harry" theme is still inexplicably edited and contractual problems prevented the inclusion of music from Schifrin's score to THE DEAD POOL (1988). But by 2008, Schifrin had issued the complete score to the first four Dirty Harry films on his Aleph label, including Jerry Fielding's excellent THE ENFORCER, rendering this CD and the previous LP, SUDDEN IMPACT AND THE BEST OF DIRTY HARRY, moot.

JAZZ MASS IN CONCERT / February 7, 1998 / Aleph
Composer Lalo Schifrin revisits the brilliant Grammy winning jazz mass he composed for Paul Horn in 1964. Paul Horn's 1964 study, JAZZ SUITE ON THE MASS TEXTS (RCA) was a meditative reflection on Schifrin's intentionally liturgical themes. But Schifrin's production, recorded live three and a half decades later, is quite a bit more energetic -- ascending more toward what John Coltrane's music achieved. This is primarily due to the multi-varied and accomplished reedwork of former Coltrane disciple Tom Scott. Schifrin revisits the same eight themes of the original piece and adds the New Orleans swagger of the traditional "Glory Glory Hallelujah," a celebration of Schifrin's piano interacting with Scott's bloozy sax. The JAZZ MASS themes here also differ from the originals quite significantly. The music is scored for a slightly larger (and more warmly symphonic) orchestra, exploring longer passages and adding a substantial amount of solo space for the players, primarily Scott. Several other soloists from the exceptional WDR Big Band, which also recently captured Schifrin's return to the landmark GILLESPIANA suite, make substantial statements as well: pianist Frank Chastenier (on "Kyrie" and "Gloria"), guitarist Markus Wienstroer on the provocative "Interludium" and vibist Christopher Dell (in Lynn Blessing's original role) on "Interludium" and "The Offertory." The live concert atmosphere truly inspires the players -- especially Scott -- to bring Schifrin's bold vision to life -- and a children's choir is a beautiful addition to five of the work's eight passages. This is an unusual and commanding jazz statement that's deeply felt and marvelously executed. Well worth investigating.

Metamorphosis Composer/pianist Lalo Schifrin endures as an interesting film music composer for, among other reasons, his ability to enhance or create effective moods. For this, the fourth in his "jazz meets the symphony" series, Schifrin concocts perhaps his most moody affair yet and, perhaps, the nicest of the bunch since the second set on Atlantic (1993). Again fronting the London Symphony Orchestra, Schifrin reunites on this 1998 recording with trumpeter James Morrison and bassist Ray Brown and adds drummer Jeff Hamilton, conga man Francisco Aguabella and guitarist/violinist Markus Wienstroer to the rhythm section. The jazz tributes this time out include a fascinating, highly-orchestrated Monk medley (peppered with Schifrin's surprisingly Monk-like piano) and a lovely Gershwin-like memorial to Bix Beiderbeck ("Rhapsody for Bix") featuring Morrison. The two Schifrin originals (the pretty Latin shuffle of "Sanctuary" and the filmic "Invisible City") are beauties and quite reminiscent of his Verve jazz days (interesting to note that Schifrin doesn't explore past compositions here as he has on previous jazz/symphony discs). Schifrin's strength in provocative arrangements is explored on a stirring take of Gil Evans' "La Nevada" (showcasing Wienstroer's violin) and the unique, jazzy "Tosca Variations." Too often Schifrin is thought of as a film composer who plays jazz or an arranger who conducts orchestras rather than a renaissance musician capable of serving each of his passions equally well. "Metamorphosis" is sufficient evidence that one endeavor can appeal to all such varieties of Schifrin's audiences. It's a real treat for jazz lovers and those who appreciate Schifrin's orchestral abilities too, with nary a concession to compromise either way. (See also: JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY COLLECTION).

THE REEL LALO SCHIFRIN / 1998 (1965-82) / Hip-O
Broad overview of 15 Schifrin film and television themes made between 1965 and 1982. Frustrating as any compilation in its omissions, but interesting, all the same, for what it includes. Other than the obvious hits ("Mission: Impossible," "Dirty Harry"), there seems to be a noble effort to showcase Schifrin's jazzier cues. The real treats are the best tracks from THE STING II ("Coney Island"), ROLLERCOASTER ("Apple Turnover"), THE CINCINNATI KID ("Melba") and VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED ("Hotel Nacionale"). Also included: "Main Title Theme" (from COOL HAND LUKE), "Main Title" (from MANNIX), "Nunzio In Love" (from NUNZIO), "Mission: Impossible" (from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), "Roulette Rhumba" (from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.), "All For The Love Of Sunshine" (from KELLY'S HEROES), "The Joint" (from ONCE A THIEF), "Chase To The Convent" (from THE FOUR MUSKETEERS), "Ellen's Image" (from THE FOX), "Dirty Harry's Creed" (the unfortunately edited theme from DIRTY HARRY) and "End Credits (March)" (from THE EAGLE HAS LANDED). It was the first-ever CD compilation of Schifrin film themes, making it somewhat valuable, but ten years later, quite a few of the soundtracks featured here remain unavailable.

THE THREE TENORS: PARIS 1998 / July 10, 1998 / Atlantic
Of the three Three Tenors events Schifrin has arranged for, this is, perhaps, the most artistically noble and notable. It was a beautiful, picturesque evening in Paris on July 10, 1998, when this over-hyped media event was performed. Its principal performers were in extremely good form. The most memorable part of the evening was James Levine's spirited conducting; but his joy was contagious. Carreras, Domingo and even Pavarotti were outstanding, individually and together. It's a shame the classics have to be promoted like an over-sponsored rock concert. It's also unfortunate to bear yet more Neapolitan clichés like "O Sole Mio," "Sorrento" and "La Donna e Mobile" (all performed as encores). Schifrin contributed the two medleys, "Medley of Romance" and "Medley of the World." Both are seamlessly woven together and more logically plotted than past Tenors medleys. Again, Schifrin proves himself one of music's most under-sung renaissance artists, capable of transcending and blending musical genres with great passion and hardly a thought to the odds against it.

Rush HourRUSH HOUR marks Schifrin's second collaboration with director Brett Ratner (MONEY TALKS), who specifically asked Schifrin to fashion something similar to the composer's ENTER THE DRAGON score for this East-meets-the-ugly-West comedy (RUSH HOUR also marks Schifrin's first collaboration with Jackie Chan since 1980's much better THE BIG BRAWL). Schifrin's soundtrack, one of the first of his film soundtracks to be available on CD in 1998, works extremely well. The composer has again devised one of his sure-fire main themes. Plus, he's also pleasingly revisited the trademark "cool" action style that he popularized during the 1970s. Most significantly, he manages to work in his vast knowledge of Asian themes in a comical, yet not derogatory way and tops it all off with his magnificent, animated orchestral style. All 23 tracks are brief and maintain an excellent sense of pacing. And although nothing here is as memorable as Schifrin is known to be, there are quite a few worthwhile moments: "Lee Arrives In L.A." (an interesting twist on the DRAGON theme), "Jumping the Bus," "Restaurant Poison," "Battle at Junato's" and "Chasing Sang." There's also an interesting VERTIGO (Bernard Herrmann) influence during, among a few others, "High Tension" and "Carter Chases Clive." Schifrin's main theme was a 1999 Grammy nominee for Best Instrumental Composition For A Motion Picture and reappears in Schifrin's score to the 2001 sequel, RUSH HOUR 2.

TALKIN' VERVE: LALO SCHIFRIN / 1999 (1962-1966) / Verve
Whereas THE REEL LALO SCHIFRIN concentrates on Schifrin's film/TV work and the German compilation, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE...AND MORE, focuses on Schifrin's clever songs, this surprisingly well-conceived collection - despite its passé and inaccurate acid-jazz connotation - highlights Maestro Schifrin's outstanding orchestral arrangements and too-little celebrated piano jazz. Included are "The Wave" (from 1962's PIANO, STRINGS AND BOSSA NOVA), the awesome "Samba Para Dos" (from 1963's SAMBA PARA DOS), "Old Laces" (from 1966's MARQUIS DE SADE) and two thirds of 1964's NEW FANTASY ("Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," "Prelude #2," "New Fantasy," "El Salon Mexico" and "The Peanut Vendor"). Also includes Cal Tjader's "The Fakir" (from SEVERAL SHADES OF JADE) and half of Dizzy Gillespie's outstanding THE NEW CONTINENT ("The Chains," "The Empire" and "Chorale").

Handsome box set combining the first four editions of Lalo Schifrin's successfully barrier-breaking jazz-meets-the-symphony series: JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY (1992), MORE JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY (1993), FIREBIRD (1995), METAMORPHOSIS (1998). Each disc is featured individually within the box and includes original CD artwork too. Such a logically conceived collection highlights Schifrin's masterful (and numerous) suites dedicated to Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk, Fats Waller and Bix Beiderbeck. But what emerges is Schifrin's masterly skill as an orchestrator and supple talent as a weaver of seemingly incompatible forms. A fifth disc ("Conversations with Jazz Stars") features two related 35-minute interviews: Chuck Niles interviewing Schifrin, Ray Brown and James Morrison and Gary Walker (WBGO) interviewing Jon Faddis and Paquito D'Rivera. A 56-page book is also enclosed. Altogether, a strong presentation of Schifrin's finest music from the 1990s. 

LATIN JAZZ SUITE / 1999 / Aleph
Lalo Schifrin's LATIN JAZZ SUITE is a masterful celebration of the diverse and colorful sounds and feelings that Latin forms add to the jazz vocabulary. It is also a reflection of the composer's successful contributions to the Latin musical language over the last four decades. This enthralling, consistently engaging six-piece suite - recorded live over two nights of its June 1999 premiere in Cologne, Germany -- most recalls Schifrin's historic GILLESPIANA suite. But LATIN JAZZ SUITE is a milestone of arguably greater proportion. As a composer, Schifrin here reveals a greater, more refined depth of maturity, a worldly mastery of musical forms and a perfected sensibility for the drama and adventure of long-form structures. The suite scales Cuban ("Montuno"), Caribbean ("Martinique") and Argentinean ("Pampas") structures to those informed by Brazilian ("Manaos"), African (the superb "Ritual") and flamenco ("Fiesta") styles. Percussion flavors subtly throughout, but never dominates or overwhelms. Schifrin's no tourist. He uses his compositional prowess to suggest the different landscapes he traverses. He also divides the star roles most intriguingly. The orchestra -- voiced here by the great WDR Big Band, which commissioned the work -- carries the majority of the melodies and punctuates poetically with some of Schifrin's most Gil Evans-like scoring (perhaps acknowledging the influence of SKETCHES OF SPAIN). Solos are manned by an exciting triumvirate including Schifrin (marvelous) on piano, Jon Faddis (at his Dizzyest best) and young firebrand David Sanchez on tenor and soprano saxes. A stronger triad is difficult to conceive. The suite's highlight is the pulsating, chant-like "Ritual," a hypnotic and vibrant piece in 12/8 time that elicits especially commanding solos from Faddis, Sanchez and, most notably, Schifrin himself. Other highlights include the catchy "Martinique," a Caribbean polyglot of Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas" and Schifrin's own "Roulette Rhumba," and the concerto-like beauty of "Pampas," Schifrin's visit back to a 1978 theme (from his underrated GYPSIES LP) enlivened most imaginatively by "Street Tattoo," the composer's theme to the film, BOULEVARD NIGHTS. This 65-minute opus ultimately suggests a sort of jazz symphony. The invention of Schifrin's conception interacting with the wit and verve of the players protect against any kind of museum-quality stodginess too. As it unfurls, it reveals itself as a most entertaining work. When it's over, it lingers in the mind and the heart as a real work of art. Surely, LATIN JAZZ SUITE is among the best, most memorable of Schifrin's jazz recordings, ranking up there alongside GILLESPIANA, JAZZ MASS and MARQUIS DE SADE. "Fiesta" was nominated for the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards (2000) in the category of "Best Instrumental Arrangement."

MANNIX / 1999 / Aleph 
Here is the music that has - until now - been something like the Holy Grail in Lalo Schifrin's catalog. The original 1969 Paramount LP is one of the composer's best and most dynamic collections of sounds. But it's proven to be too expensive or too impossible for fans to locate. Even the composer himself spent a year or so attempting to get the Paramount LP released on CD. But after ongoing frustrations, he opted to record the music again, which presented the even tougher challenge of locating or recreating the original score. Heading to Cologne, Germany in June 1999 and utilizing the talents of the WDR Big Band, Schifrin redid all 11 of the LP's original tracks, commendably utilizing the sometimes dated Sixties sound and arrangements of the originals. It's worth remembering that the 1969 LP, like the 1968 MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE "soundtrack", is more a collection of themes that seemed to fit the show. The song titles, chosen by the show's producer, Bruce Geller, reflect titles of various episodes, none of which Schifrin even scored. When MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE producer Bruce Geller approached Schifrin about doing MANNIX in 1967, the CBS-TV show was built around a classic hard-boiled detective employed by Intertect, a computerized detective agency. Schifrin styled a clever alternative to the suggestion of computerized music by creating the lively jazz waltz in 3/4 time that became the main theme. By the second season, Mannix (Mike Connors) left Intertect, adopted the kinder tough-guy persona he's known for and hired Peggy Fair (the wonderful Gail Fisher) as his secretary. Here, Schifrin recasts his themes in such a way that suggests only recording techniques have improved. TV music just doesn't get this compelling much anymore. These are fully developed jazz-like themes, well-plotted with all the elements of an exciting story, rife with strong melodies, tension-filled countermelodies and exciting ("The Shadow," "Fear," "Hunt Down") or sensual ("Warning: Live Blueberries," "The End Of The Rainbow") rhythms. Nothing here is merely the riff-based stuff cop shows became famous for in the 1970s. Also included on this new CD are four somewhat related themes, whose sounds and titles - "Sao Paolo After Dark," "Curtains For A Murder," "You Should Have Known" and "The Vienna Incident" - seem more appropriate to THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Schifrin ought to have included some of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE music ("Cinnamon," "Midnight Courier," "Mission Blues") that turned up in MANNIX episodes. Still, what a quibble. This is outstanding music, engagingly performed. Sure, it's not the original. But it will do just fine. (See also: the original MANNIX.

JAZZ GOES TO HOLLYWOOD / October 1999 / Aleph 

Finally, a Lalo Schifrin collection devoted to Lalo Schifrin film themes. JAZZ GOES TO HOLLYWOOD is the result of a live performance, recorded in Germany in October 1999, consisting entirely of the composer's own popular film and TV themes. The WDR Big Band again frames Schifrin's music in a peerless and exuberant performance, highlighted by the guest signatures of American sax man Ernie Watts (a Schifrin partner on such soundtracks as THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, whose theme is featured here) and underrated European jazz trombonist, Nils Landgren. Schifrin alternates between themes that have a direct pop orientation ("Down Here On The Ground" from COOL HAND LUKE, "That Night" from THE FOX, "The Cincinnati Kid," "People Alone" from THE COMPETITION and "Share The Dream" from MANHATTAN MERINGUE, all highlighted by vocalist Sandra Booker) and those that are jazzier ("The Cat" from the great JOY HOUSE, a too-fast version of "Bullitt," "Once A Thief" and "Blues for Basie" from ROLLERCOASTER). Schifrin himself is heard briefly at the piano for a nicely simmering cover of the obligatory "Mission Impossible." Ultimately, JAZZ GOES TO HOLLYWOOD serves as a necessary sort of greatest hits collection. But it's unlikely that any fan of Schifrin's jazz, film or pop music will be entirely satisfied by the diverse 65-minute program presented here.

THE FOX / October 1999 / Aleph

Here, composer Lalo Schifrin revisits his Academy Award nominated score to Mark Rydell's 1968 film of D.H. Lawrence's book, enriching it with many new and remarkably inspired pieces. The results are lovely. Indeed, this is a far more engaging work than the now-hard-to-find Warner Bros. soundtrack (Theresa Eastman's boldly similar cover art here may confuse buyers who remember the original LP). Schifrin has long admired this theme, and has performed and recorded it often. Here he embellishes it with the "metaphysics of emotion" he originally intended, communicating such deeply personal struggles as tenderness and fear as well as the broad range of feelings loneliness and togetherness inspire. Schifrin's genius for orchestrating emotion has rarely been this clear. This version of the score, which comes off as a sort of beautiful symphonic suite, is broken by a vocal version of the main theme heard on the recent JAZZ GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and an orchestral version of the theme from 1992's JAZZ MEETS THE SYMPHONY. Neither are bad. But both break the haunting spell Schifrin weaves throughout this enchanting, intoxicating score. (See also: the original THE FOX). 

BULLITT / April 3-8, 2000 / Aleph 
Among Lalo Schifrin's best, most persuasive film scores is the hip, jazz-inflected BULLITT. The 1968 film starred ultra-cool Steve McQueen and featured Peter Yate's crisp, cutting-edge direction. It also presented one of the more memorable car chases in movie history; one that benefited tremendously by Schifrin's use of complete silence. For the rest of the film, however, Schifrin crafted an exceedingly elegant collection of snappy jazz themes, ideally suiting the film's late sixties San Francisco setting. There are many strong themes here (one of the few Henry Mancini influences present) and spots for a bit of crafty improvisation from the musicians too. Here, as with recent releases of MANNIX and THE FOX, Schifrin has completely re-recorded the score; in this case, thirty-two years after the fact. With the ever-excellent WDR Big Band as a foil, Schifrin recreates the entire Warner Bros. soundtrack, issued in 1968, adds alternative arrangements of three of the film's themes and adds such never before released cues as "Just Coffee" and "The Architect's Building" (which is mistakenly listed here as "Song For Cathy"). There are also four different versions - all excellent - of the tremendous and insidious "Bullitt" theme. Usually this theme is taken too fast or it's scored for too many horns. Here, it's perfect, with "Bullitt, main title (movie version)" and "Bullitt, guitar solo" both knock-out performances. Several other excellent Schifrin themes are here as well: "Ice Pick Mike," "Cantata For Combo" (with a great Frank Chastenier piano solo), "Song For Cathy" and "Room 26." Outstanding throughout, BULLITT is, perhaps, the  most Schifrinesque of the composer's work. Here, the score has been lovingly recreated by the composer especially for an avid audience of jazz listeners and film-music fans who've waited a long time for this music to become available. (see also: the original BULLITT). 

ESPERANTO / January 22, 2000 / Aleph
An exquisite and rousing suite that finds Lalo Schifrin using jazz and symphonic structures to create a worldly musical outlook worthy of its title. The suite features six very long and distinctive pieces that all bear Schifrin's personal cinematic flair. No single piece, however, offers Schifrin's strong melodic signature. But the intention here is to weave melodic passages together through orchestral punctuation, letting the featured soloists provide the flavor. In that, Schifrin brilliantly highlights the collective with the distinct sounds and improvisational talents of Don Byron (clarinet), Nestor Marconi (bandoneon), Jean Luc Ponty (violin) and, to a lesser but no less substantial degree, Trilok Gurtu (tabla) and James Morrison (alternating on trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone). It's hard to pull any one piece out of the suite to say it's better than the others. Schifrin really has become quite adept at creating a full or, rather, whole musical experience. But, to these ears, "Resonances" and "Dance of the Harlequins" are particular highlights, and both provide especially inspired statements from Byron, Ponty and Marconi. It's difficult to label this music any better than Schifrin has with the title he's given to it. Here, then, is renaissance music from one of contemporary music's most renaissance composers. 

INTERSECTIONS / November 24 & 25, 2000 / Aleph

The idea's still a good one. And no one does it better than Lalo Schifrin. But there really isn't anything new or exciting here on the fifth of Schifrin's Jazz Meets The Symphony series. Guest soloists include the always outstanding David Sanchez (reuniting with Schifrin after the wonderful LATIN JAZZ SUITE), the way-too-Dizzy-like James Morrison, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff Hamilton. On INTERSECTIONS, the large group revisits Schifrin's arrangements of Horace Silver's "Tokyo Blues" (originally for Cal Tjader), "Basin Street Blues" (Jimmy Smith) and the composer's own "Bossa Antique" from MARQUIS DE SADE (on "The Baroque Connection"). The real revelations, however, come from the darting title piece (truly an exercise in interactive soloist-with-orchestra dynamics), "Donna's Dream" and, most especially, the Schifrinesque "Scherazade Fantasy" (based on a theme by Rimsky-Korsakov). Liner notes writer Richard Palmer references enough Creed Taylor productions of the early 1960s that it seems wrong not to give the legendary producer his due for creating the basis of many of the pieces included here.

RUSH HOUR 2 / 2001 / Varese Sarabande

Lalo Schifrin’s second score for the RUSH HOUR series is a little unusual in that it is more of a Lalo Schifrin concept than most of his more signature film scores tend to be. The original film’s theme is back as this film’s main title theme, but with much more orchestration and obvious Asian embellishments. What is new – and a little out of place here, though – is Schifrin’s “jazz meets the symphony” sensibilities, with two (too) longish takes of Count Basie snoozers/classics, a pleasing JMTS outtake, “Nevada Mood” (nothing like his cover of Gil Evans’s “La Nevada”) and the intriguing “The Cosmo In Las Vegas”, which sort of riffs off of every Asiatic-slash-loungy thing Schifrin has ever done (“The Fakir” comes immediately to mind). “The Cosmo” weaves together Schifrin’s excellent abilities for wicked, quick-witted cues. But an even stronger example of that here is the sinewy and wonderful “Undercover Agents”.  It’s most unlikely that Schifrin’s jazz fans will know to listen here for what they like. But Schifrin’s movie fans will be modestly happy with only the first and last thirds of this disc. It’s just that even though a wider palette of sounds and styles are on display here, Schifrin lent the first RUSH HOUR a much stronger score.

TIN TIN DEO / 1962 - 1963 / Fresh Sound

TIN TIN DEO couples the entirety of Lalo Schifrin's very rare 1962 Roulette album, LALO = BRILLIANCE, with the five tracks Schifrin arranged for Antonio Diaz Mena's even rarer 1963 Audio Fidelity album, ESO ES LATIN JAZZ, MAN. None of these 13 tracks had been issued on CD before this 2001 Spanish release. The CD sounds good, though, catching Lalo in an especially Latin mode throughout. Schifrin's album features a sextet - the core of Dizzy Gillespie's rhythm section of the time - while the Mena album features a somewhat larger group with Clark Terry as featured guest. Both will sound familiar to anyone who's heard Lalo wax poetic on Latin themes. But there's a bit more of an edge here. The eight tracks from LALO = BRILLIANCE feature some of Schifrin's most arresting piano work. In both cases, though, it is reedman Leo Wright who shines brightest (if you don't count the sparkling "Schifrinesque" moods throughout). Two tremendous and markedly different versions of Diz's "Kush" are heard here with fascinating covers of "Harlem Nocturne," "Rhythm-a-Ning" as well as Lalo's must-hear compositions, "Mambo Jazz Opus No. 7," "The Snake's Dance," "Syphros" and "Mount Olive." 


The 1966 Verve release of Lalo Schifrin's MARQUIS DE SADE remains one of the composer's most notable and enduring musical achievements. Schifrin combined classical elements of the baroque period with popular inspiration and delivered it in a jazz context in what can be called the maestro's earliest examples of "jazz meets the symphony." Thirty-five years later, Schifrin returns for a "sequel and continuation of" this high-minded and highly inspired concept for RETURN OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE. While not as compelling or as memorable as the original, the RETURN is a wonderful promenade through some very enjoyable and well-delivered baroque jazz. On the seven newly-recorded tracks, Schifrin alternates between harpsichord (for which he has an uncannily light touch) and piano, supported beautifully by Tom Scott (first rate on soprano sax and, especially, flute), Brian Bromberg on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums, accompanied occasionally by a lovely string quartet. If anyone can make 'swinging the classics' work particularly well, it's Schifrin, as he does on "Relaxin' at Charenton" (a delightful reference to the way Schifrin marries be-bop to baroque), "Come My Way" (which weaves elements of "Old Laces" into the new melody) and "Justine" (which reconsiders Schifrin's melodic "Memory of Love"). In an appropriate touch, the composer - who clearly favors his accomplishments on the original MARQUIS DE SADE - adds three of his baroque performances from the Jazz Meets The Symphony series: "Bach To The Blues" (based on MARQUIS DE SADE's "The Blues for Johann Sebastian"), "Eine Kliene Jazz Music" (based on "Beneath A Weeping Willow Shade") and "Madrigal" (based on "Renaissance").


Each of Lalo Schifrin’s journeys into his remarkable “Jazz Meets The Symphony” series celebrates musical artistry of the highest order. In a series that stretches back to 1992, Schifrin has cast jazz folk like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Bix Biderbeck and others on a par accorded to such “greats” as Bach, Mozart, Copland or Gershwin. Interestingly, the series seems to be increasingly exploring many of the glories of Schifrin’s own past. In this, the sixth disc in the series and the first since 2000’s INTERSECTIONS, Schifrin revisits much of the ground he covered on his 1964 album NEW FANTASY. A full five of NEW FANTASY’s eight titles are reconsidered and greatly improved upon with the wisdom Schifrin has gained in the four decades since his prototype “jazz meets the symphony” record was made. It helps that Schifrin has some outstanding support from trumpeter James Morrison (occasionally blowing in the obligatory Dizzy role), bassist Christian McBride (outstanding in the Ray Brown role), Sydney-based drummer Gordon Rytmeister, the lavishly peopled Sydney Symphony and, most astoundingly of all, the arranger and conductor himself on piano – on every track! Schifrin reflects on his musical heritage by assaying the NEW FANTASY tracks (Villa-Lobos’s "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5", "Peanut Vendor", Copland’s "El Salón Mexico", "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" and Gershwin’s "Prelude No. 2"), a surprisingly graceful orchestral version of his theme from “The Cincinnati Kid” (no doubt in honor of original singer Ray Charles, who passed away only several months before this recording) and “Paraphrase,” a virtual book of Schifrin quotes from “The Cat,” “Kelly’s Heroes” and Rock Requiem done up New Orleans style (another reflection from “The Cincinnati Kid”). But the real treats here are found in the delicious “Jazzette,” “Peanut Vendor” and “To Be Or Not To Bop.” Schifrin’s “Jazzette” is one of his most exciting themes in a long time, offering a wondrous mix of low brass and high strings and excellent solos from the pianist and the bassist. Schifrin recasts the wicked “Peanut Vendor” in a dark “Mission Impossible”-like ostinato, completely unlike the 1964 arrangement, and solos the hell out of McBride’s entrancing vamp on piano, which launches Morrison into a trombone solo that begs to dance with the devil (not bad for a guy who just issued his own gospel album, also featuring Rytmeister). “To Be Or Not To Bop,” the name of Dizzy Gillespie’s autobiography, is pretty much Gillespiana, part 2, Schifrin’s amazingly imaginative journey through nearly every idea Diz bopped his way through during the 1940s and 1950s. KALEIDOSCOPE is one of Lalo Schifrin’s strongest musical statements in some time – and certainly ranks high among the best of the JMTS series (1993’s MORE JMTS is probably another). Like ESPERANTO (Aleph/2000), the title perfectly captures Schifrin’s ever-evolving patterns of musical imagination and the beautiful blend of changing colors he brings to music, whatever name you choose to apply to it, jazz, orchestral, world music, whatever. Kaleidoscope fits just fine.

RUSH HOUR 3 / 2007 / Varese Sarabande

Lalo Schifrin returns to film and finds himself right back on game here. The pointless film, a guilty pleasure at best, is pretty much an unnecessary retread of the first one. But, for the most part, Schifrin accompanies it with a superb score here: not as good as the first one but a vast improvement over the second one. There is much here that recalls the composer’s work from Seventies action films, although it’s less ENTER THE DRAGON (the inspiration of the first score) and more of an Asiatic variation of DIRTY HARRY, with some affectations borrowed from James Bond, Hitchcock – of all things! – John Williams’s JAWS (which, I believe, derives from Holst) and, appropriately enough, Henry Mancini’s mystery/comedies. There are lots of great bits of percussion, electric bass (“Hospital Gunfight”, “Dragon Lady”, “Parachute Down”) and Schifrin’s signature left-handed piano figures (one of the keyboardists here, Mike Lang, has always served well as a stand-in for Schifrin’s dramatic jazz sensibilities). Nothing stands out particularly here, with the possible exceptions of “With Genvieve” and “Swordfight” (having an odd STAR TREK quality), which are both a little too all-over the map to register as complete melodic compositions. There is some fine string work present here, however, particularly on “Parachute Down”. Altogether, it all works quite well as something of an interesting if not diverting suite. Schifrin, as he does in all of his best film work, manages to place you in the midst of everything – emotion and all – without you having to see one single frame of the film. Bravo. One is, however, best advised to avoid the unnecessary remix at the end, coordinated by one of key players on the date (Ruy Folguera) and the composer’s son, Ryan, a film director in his own right (a tune I don’t recall being anywhere in the film).


A great long wait has ended for anyone interested in the tremendous music Lalo Schifrin provided to his earliest American films with Film Score Monthly’s newly-issued and remarkable five-disc set, The Cincinnati Kid: Lalo Schifrin Film Scores, Vol. 1 (1964–1968).

Much of the music included on this magnificent recording has never been available on vinyl or CD and while most of the work ranks as some of Schifrin’s earliest in American film, it also stands as some of the composer’s most enjoyable and memorable music in the medium.

Lalo Schifrin is one of the most distinguished composers of the Silver Age—and still going strong today. He may have been the most influential, however, when he broke into movies and television in the 1960s—his unique synthesis of jazz, symphonic, pop and avant garde styles was invigorating. For the first time, FSM presents an extended collection of Schifrin’s 1960s theatrical film scores, comprised of a quintet of M-G-M original soundtracks and related album recordings.

Rhino! (1964) was Schifrin’s first Hollywood score, written for an African safari adventure starring Robert Culp, Harry Guardino and Shirley Eaton. Schifrin was recommended by MGM Records (where he was a recording artist) as being the film studio’s answer for Henry Mancini on Hatari!—a tall order, but one Schifrin pulled off with a vibrant and exciting symphonic score, featuring exotic African instrumentation and several memorable themes and musical set pieces. Unfortunately, space limitations (among other things) prevented this set’s inclusion of the ultra-rare 45-rpm release of “Theme from Rhino!” b/w “Rhino Romp” that was issued by MGM in 1964 and Schifrin’s recording of “The ‘7 Faces of Dr. Lao’ Theme” recorded at the same February 1964 session and issued on a different, yet equally rare 45-rpm single.

Once a Thief (1965), Schifrin’s second feature score at M-G-M, is a corker of a jazz soundtrack for Ralph Nelson’s film noir starring Alain Delon, Jack Palance and Ann-Margret. Schifrin’s score, at turns dynamic and poetic, was heralded by jazz critics as one of the rare, authentic uses of the idiom in a Hollywood movie. The album includes both the original soundtrack (never before released) and Schifrin’s 1965 Creed Taylor-produced LP for Verve Records, Once a Thief and Other Themes (also including selections from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Joy House, and a few non-soundtrack pieces).

Disc three features what is probably Schifrin’s best-known score for M-G-M, The Cincinnati Kid (1965), the Norman Jewison film starring Steve McQueen as an up-and-coming gambler in 1930s New Orleans. Schifrin wrote a bluesy score centering on a theme for harmonica, sung (with lyrics by Dorcas Cochran) over the end titles by Ray Charles. The album features both the MGM Records album (a hybrid of original soundtrack and re-recorded selections) and the complete original soundtrack as recorded for the film, including many alternates and unused cues. Schifrin himself recorded the soundtrack album in 2002 for his own Aleph label (I was fortunate enough to do the notes for that set) and the composer insisted upon including Ray Charles’ original recording of the main theme from 1965 in this set of new recordings because Charles’ performance was “truly irreplaceable.”

Discs four and five feature two late-1960s films in which M-G-M tried to build feature careers for the stars from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Robert Vaughn (in 1967’s The Venetian Affair) and David McCallum (in 1968’s Sol Madrid), by casting them (separately) in unrelated stories of international espionage. Schifrin’s scores to both films are excellent: pulsating, moody Cold War intrigue for The Venetian Affair (featuring cymbalom), and diverse, often Latin-flavored pop and jazz for Sol Madrid (alongside more traditional scoring).

The set includes Lalo Schifrin’s original 45-rpm release of The Venetian Affair‘s main theme “Our Venetian Affair” and the exquisitely exotic “Venice After Dark” (which featured on the brilliant 1996 compilation Mission: Impossible…And More!) as well as the ultra-rare Julius LaRosa version of the main theme “Our Venetian Affair” – which differs considerably from the Don Costa-arranged version which appears on the singer’s Hey, Look Me Over album.

While lyrics were written by Norman Gimbel for Sol Madrid's main theme in a song called “Nice To Know,” there is no evidence that such a song was ever recorded and, subsequently nothing to that effect is included here.

Disc five concludes with an assortment of bonus tracks from Schifrin’s M-G-M work of the period, including themes from TV projects Medical Center (Schifrin’s first of two released versions of the theme), the extraordinarily rare and never-before released themes from Schifrin’s early 70s TV specials The Mask of Sheba and Earth II and a very rare recording called “The Haunting,” a very strange 45-only song released by MGM Records in 1963 that is alleged to be “inspired by the MGM Picture The Haunting” (a great film, yes, but this music could hardly be said to be a successful component or like-minded inspiration).  

The entire five-CD set, save for a few tracks, is in excellent stereo sound, remastered from the original 35mm three-track scoring masters (for the original soundtracks) or ¼” two-track album masters (for the record albums). The excellent liner notes are by Schifrin authority Jon Burlingame. The amazingly comprehensive track-by-track commentary can be found at Film Score Monthly’s web site.

Amazing…and essential.