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Lalo Schifrin

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Lalo Schifrin

Biography

Lalo Schifrin (b. 21 June 1932, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an Argentine pianist, composer, arranger and conductor.

Schifrin's father, Luis Schifrin, led the second violin section of the orchestra at the Teatro Colón for three decades. At the age of six, Schifrin began a six-year course of study on piano with Enrique Barenboim, the father of the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. At age 16, Schifrin began studying piano with the Greek-Russian expatriate Andreas Karalis, former head of the Kiev Conservatory, and harmony with Argentine composer Juan Carlos Paz. During this time, Schifrin also became interested in jazz.

Although Schifrin studied sociology and law at the University of Buenos Aires, it was music that captured his attention. At age 20, he successfully applied for a scholarship to the Paris Conservatoire. At night he played jazz in the Paris clubs. In 1955, Schifrin played piano with Argentinian bandoneon giant Ástor Piazzolla, and represented his country at the International Jazz Festival in Paris.

After returning home to Argentina, Schifrin formed a jazz orchestra, a 16-piece band that became part of a popular weekly variety show on Buenos Aires TV. Schifrin also began accepting other film, television and radio assignments. In 1956, Schifrin met Dizzy Gillespie and offered to write an extended work for Gillespie's big band. Schifrin completed the work, Gillespiana, in 1958 (it was recorded in 1960). Later that year Schifrin began working as an arranger for Xavier Cugat's popular Latin dance orchestra. While in New York in 1960, Dizzy Gillespie invited Schifrin to fill the vacant piano chair in his quintet. Schifrin immediately accepted and moved to New York City. Schifrin wrote a second extended composition for Gillespie, The New Continent, which was recorded in 1962. In 1963, MGM, which had Schifrin under contract, offered the composer his first Hollywood film assignment with the African adventure Rhino!. Schifrin moved to Hollywood late that year. He also radically re-arranged the theme for the popular NBC-TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., altering original composer Jerry Goldsmith's theme to a jazzy melody emphasizing flutes and exotic percussion, which wound up winning the Emmy award for Best TV Theme in 1965.

One of Schifrin's most recognizable and enduring compositions is the theme music for the long-running TV series Mission: Impossible. It is a distinctive tune written in the uncommon 5/4 time signature. Similarly, Schifrin's theme for the hugely successful Mannix private eye TV show was composed a year later in a 3/4 waltz time; Schifrin composed several other jazzy and bluesy numbers over the years as additional incidental music for the show.

Schifrin's score for Coogan's Bluff in 1968 was the beginning of a long association with Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel. Schifrin's strong jazz blues riffs were evident in Dirty Harry.

He is also widely sampled in hip-hop and trip-hop songs, such as Heltah Skeltah's Prowl or Portishead's Sour Time.

To date, Lalo Schifrin has won four Grammy Awards (with twenty-one nominations), one Cable ACE Award, one Emmy Award, and received six Oscar nominations, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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