Lalo Schifrin: A little background on each jazz song … Video

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Born in Argentina, Lalo Schifrin is part of a small group of 1950s jazz musicians who launched successful second careers composing movie scores in the 1960s and beyond.

The list includes Johnny Mandel, John Towner Williams, Neal Hefti, Henry Mancini, Andre Previn, Michel Legrand, John Lewis, Quincy Jones and Jerry Fielding among others. P01bqjrd
Lalo has written more than 100 film and TV scores, and his specialty has always been jazzy suspense orchestrations. If you grew up in the 1960s, you know his music best from TV’s Mannix and Mission: Impossible. As an arranger of nail-biting scores, Lalo was the best friend a a pair of bongos ever had.

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Last week, French pianist and film composer Jean-Michel Bernard released a superb new album celebrating Lalo’s music: Jean-Michel Bernard Plays Lalo Schifrin (Varèse Sarabande). The album features 17 spine-tingling tracks—mostly movie and TV themes, with a few of Lalo’s signature jazz tracks thrown in. The songs on the album are…

Mannix, Bullitt, Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry Suite, Lalo’s Bossa Nova, Mission: Impossible, That Night, Tango Del Atardecer, The Cat, Les Felins, The Cincinnati Kid, Introduction to the Plot, The Plot, Cheketeers Suite, Manteca, Chano and Mannix Ballad.

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After an initial recording session in France, Bernard (above) was invited by Lalo to record at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Bernard asked Lalo to join him on three pieces: Chano, Introduction to the Plot and Cheketeers Suite.

Here’s a little background on each song…

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Mannix
 is a sweeping, brassy waltz that was written for the TV detective series that ran from 1967 to 1975. It was my introduction to jazz as a kid.

Bullitt (1968) starred Steve McQueen and featured one of the great car chases in film up until that point.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) starred Paul Newman.

Dirty Harry Suite featured music from the detective film series directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

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Lalo’s Bossa Nova
 was recorded on a 1962 album called Piano, Strings and Bossa Nova. Lalo recorded six bossa albums in the early ’60s.

Mission: Impossible was the slam-bang theme for the 1966-1973 TV spy series.

That Night was written by Lalo for his score for The Fox (1967).

Tango Del Atardecer was written for Lalo’s score for Tango (1998).

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The Cat
 was written for Lalo’s score for the French film Joy House (1964). The song was recorded by jazz organist Jimmy Smith for his album, The Cat (1964), which also was arranged and conducted by Lalo.

Les Felins was the theme for Joy House (1964).

The Cincinnati Kid is Lalo’s theme for the 1965 movie.

Introduction to the Plot is the song that precedes The Plot on this album and combines Recuerdos from Che! (with a baguala rhythm) with the love theme from The Four Musketeers in Renaissance style. The flute soloist is Sara Andon.

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The Plot
 is the famed incidental theme that played during TV’s Mission: Impossible during wordless action scenes.

Cheketeers Suite is from Lalo’s Che! (1969) score.

Manteca was written by Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller in 1947. It was first arranged by Lalo in 1955 for Eddie Warner in Paris. Lalo recorded the song with Gillespie on several albums.

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Chano
 was written by Lalo for Gillespie and was first recorded on Lalo’s More Jazz Meets the Symphony in 1993.

Mannix Ballad is a reworking of the waltz-time theme as a glorious mid-tempo piano piece.

If you love Lalo’s music as much as I do, this album is a must own. Jean-Michel Bernard did a spectacular job retaining the original feel of each piece while updating the music with taut, potent orchestral arrangements. And Bernard’s piano is elegant and in the spirit of Lalo’s own playing. And there are plenty of bongos to keep you on edge.

In October 2012, I traveled to Los Angeles to interview Lalo Schifrin at home for The Wall Street Journal.  After Hurricane Sandy disrupted East-bound flights and delayed my return by a couple of days. Lalo and his wife, Donna, graciously insisted I join them for dinner in Beverly Hills. I’ll never forget that meal or their lovely act of kindness. We still keep in touch today.

Marc Myers and Loren Janes 2011
I also wrote about the car-chase scenes in Bullitt for the WSJ in 2011 by re-tracing the route in a Ford Mustang with Loren Janes, Steve McQueen’s stunt double, in the passenger seat. I flew him up to San Francisco from Los Angeles for the drive. Sadly, Loren passed away earlier this year. Much to Loren’s amusement, I brought along a CD of Lalo’s Bullitt soundtrack for atmosphere during the ride. [Photo of me and Loren Janes in San Francisco in 2011]

Here’s Lalo’s Mannix theme by Jean-Michel Bernard. Dig how Bernard arranges this, combining muted trumpet, baritone sax, piano, vibes bongos and tympani…

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