Lalo Schifrin

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Lalo Schifrin
Lalo schifrin (cropped) (2).jpg
Schifrin in 2006
Background information
Birth nameBoris Claudio Schifrin
Born (1932-06-21) June 21, 1932 (age 88)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Musician
  • composer
  • arranger
  • conductor
  • Piano
  • keyboards
Years active1950–present

Boris Claudio "Lalo" Schifrin (born June 21, 1932) [1] is an Argentine-American pianist, composer, arranger and conductor. He is best known for his large body of film and TV scores since the 1950s, including Cool Hand Luke , the "Theme from Mission: Impossible", Bullitt , Dirty Harry , and Enter the Dragon . He has received five Grammy Awards and six Academy Awards nominations. Associated with the jazz music genre, Schifrin is also noted for his collaborations with Clint Eastwood from the late 1960s to the 1980s, particularly the Dirty Harry series of films.


Early life

Schifrin was born in Buenos Aires, to a Jewish family. [2] His father, Luis Schifrin, led the second violin section of the orchestra at the Teatro Colón for three decades. [1] At the age of six, Schifrin began a six-year course of study on piano with Enrique Barenboim, the father of pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. Schifrin began studying piano with the Greek-Russian expatriate Andreas Karalis, former head of the Kyiv 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. [1] At age 20, he successfully applied for a scholarship to the Conservatoire de Paris. At night, he played jazz in the Paris clubs. In 1955, Schifrin played piano with Argentine bandoneon giant Ástor Piazzolla and represented his country at the International Jazz Festival in Paris.

Later life and career

After returning home to Argentina in his twenties, 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 [1] (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, Schifrin again met Gillespie, who had by this time disbanded his big band for financial reasons. 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.

On 26 May 1963, he recorded an album, Buenos Aires Blues, with Duke Ellington’s alto saxophonist, Johnny Hodges. Schifrin wrote two compositions for the album; Dreary Blues and the title track B. A. Blues. In the same year Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which had Schifrin under contract, offered the composer his first Hollywood film assignment with the African adventure Rhino!. [1] Schifrin moved to Los Angeles and became a U.S. resident in 1963. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1969. [3]

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 "Tar Sequence" from his Cool Hand Luke score (also written in 5/4) was the longtime theme for the Eyewitness News broadcasts on New York station WABC-TV and other ABC affiliates, as well as Nine News in Australia. CBS Television used part of the theme of his St. Ives soundtrack for its golf broadcasts in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Schifrin's score for the 1968 film Coogan's Bluff 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 .

Schifrin's working score for 1973's The Exorcist was rejected by the film's director, William Friedkin. Schifrin had written six minutes of difficult and heavy music for the initial film trailer, but audiences were reportedly frightened by the combination of sights and sounds. As reported by Schifrin in an interview, Warner Bros. executives told Friedkin to instruct Schifrin to tone it down with softer music, but Friedkin did not relay the message. Schifrin also said that working on the film was one of the most unpleasant experiences in his life. [4]

In 1976 he released a single called "Jaws", a version of the John Williams theme from the Universal Pictures film Jaws , on CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated) records. The single spent nine weeks in the UK chart, peaking at number 14.

In 1981, he wrote the music for the 1981 American slapstick comedy film Caveman (film)

In the 1990s, he wrote many of the arrangements for The Three Tenors concerts.

In the 1998 film Tango , Schifrin returned to tango music, with which he had grown familiar while working as Astor Piazzolla's pianist in the mid-1950s. He brought traditional tango songs to the film, as well as introducing compositions of his own, in which tango is fused with jazz elements. [5]

In 1997, the composer founded Aleph Records. [6]

He also wrote the main theme for Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow .

Schifrin made a cameo appearance in Red Dragon (2002) as an orchestra conductor.

He is also widely sampled in hip-hop and trip-hop songs, such as Heltah Skeltah's "Prowl" or Portishead's "Sour Times". Both songs sample Schifrin's "Danube Incident", one of many themes he composed for specific episodes of the Mission: Impossible TV series.

He was commissioned to compose a work entitled Symphonic Impressions of Oman. [7] The Sultan was particularly enthusiastic about the pipe organ. [8]

On April 23, 2007, Lalo Schifrin presented a concert of film music for the Festival du Film Jules Verne Aventures (Festival Jules Verne), at Le Grand Rex theatre in Paris, France – Europe's biggest movie theater. This was recorded by festival leaders for a 73-and-a-half-minute CD named Lalo Schifrin: Le Concert à Paris.

In 2010, a fictionalised account of Lalo Schifrin's creation of the "Theme from Mission: Impossible" tune was featured in a Lipton TV commercial aired in a number of countries around the world. [9]

Seattle-based alternative hip hop group Blue Scholars recorded a track entitled "Lalo Schifrin" on their third album Cinemetropolis (2011).


Lalo Schifrin has won five Grammy Awards (four Grammy Awards and one Latin Grammy), with twenty-two nominations, one CableACE Award, and received six Academy Award and four Primetime Emmy Award nominations. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2016, it was announced that his Mission: Impossible theme will be inducted into the Grammy Award Hall of Fame. [10]

The Argentine composer received an honorary Oscar in November 2018, in recognition of his successful career, the Hollywood Academy announced in a press release. [11]

Discography and film scores

See also

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Theme from <i>Mission: Impossible</i> American television theme music

"Theme from Mission: Impossible" is the theme tune of the TV series Mission: Impossible (1966–1973). The theme was written and composed by Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin and has since gone on to appear in several other works of the Mission: Impossible franchise, including the 1988 TV series, the film series, and the video game series.

<i>Theres a Whole Lalo Schifrin Goin On</i> 1968 studio album by Lalo Schifrin

There's a Whole Lalo Schifrin Goin' On is an album by Argentine composer, pianist and conductor Lalo Schifrin recorded in 1968 and released on the Dot label.

<i>Jazz Meets the Symphony</i> 1993 studio album by Lalo Schifrin

Jazz Meets the Symphony is an album by Argentine-American composer, pianist and conductor Lalo Schifrin with bassist Ray Brown, drummer Grady Tate and the London Philharmonic Orchestra recorded in 1992 and released on the Atlantic label in 1993.

<i>Music from Mission: Impossible</i> 1967 soundtrack album by Lalo Schifrin

Music from Mission: Impossible is an album featuring music composed and conducted by Lalo Schifrin recorded in 1967 and released on the Dot label. The music on this album is rerecorded and extended scores that were originally commissioned for the TV series Mission: Impossible.

<i>More Mission: Impossible</i> 1969 soundtrack album by Lalo Schifrin

More Mission Impossible is an album featuring music composed and conducted by Lalo Schifrin recorded in 1968 and released on the Paramount label. As with Music from Mission: Impossible (1967) the music on this album is rerecorded and extended scores that were originally commissioned for the TV series Mission: Impossible.

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<i>Metamorphosis: Jazz Meets the Symphony</i> 1998 studio album by Lalo Schifrin

Metamorphosis: Jazz Meets the Symphony #4 is an album by Argentine composer, pianist and conductor Lalo Schifrin with bassist Ray Brown, drummer Jeff Hamilton, trumpeter James Morrison, percussionist Francisco Aguabella and the London Symphony Orchestra recorded in 1998 and released on Schifrin's Aleph label.

This is the discography of Argentine jazz musician Lalo Schifrin.

<i>Intersections: Jazz Meets the Symphony</i> 2001 live album by Lalo Schifrin

Intersections: Jazz Meets the Symphony #5 is an album by Argentine composer, pianist and conductor Lalo Schifrin with a jazz quintet, the WDR Big Band, and the WDR Radio Orchestra of Cologne recorded in 2000 and released on the Aleph label in 2001. The AllMusic review of the album noted that only Duke Ellington and Woody Herman had previously combined a big band with a symphony orchestra. Joining Schifrin in the quintet were James Morrison on trumpet, fluegelhorn, and trombone, David Sánchez on soprano and tenor saxes, Christian McBride on bass, and Jeff Hamilton on drums. The album, the fifth in Schifrin's highly acclaimed "Jazz Meets the Symphony" series, was recorded before live audiences at two concerts in the Klaus-Von-Bismarck-Saal in Cologne, Germany, and an edited version was later broadcast on WDR radio and television.

<i>Invocation: Jazz Meets the Symphony No. 7</i> Studio album by Lalo Schifrin

Invocation: Jazz Meets the Symphony No. 7 is an album by Argentine-American composer, pianist, and conductor Lalo Schifrin with a jazz quartet and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra recorded in Prague, Czech Republic in 2010 and released on the Aleph label in 2011. The album was the seventh in Schifrin's highly acclaimed "Jazz Meets the Symphony" series. Unlike some others in the series, the album was not recorded before a live audience.

<i>Gillespiana In Cologne</i> 1998 live album by Lalo Schifrin

Gillespiana In Cologne is a live album by Argentine-American composer, pianist and conductor Lalo Schifrin with soloists and the WDR Big Band recorded in-concert in Cologne, Germany in 1996. The concert was also broadcast on German radio and television. The album was released to inaugurate Schifrin's Aleph Records label in 1998. It was the first recording of Schifrin's classic jazz suite since the debut recording by Dizzy Gillespie in 1960.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Huey, Steve (1932-06-21). "Allmusic biography". Retrieved 2012-06-25.
  2. Brook, Vincent (2006). You should see yourself: Jewish identity in postmodern American culture . Rutgers University Press. p.  96. ISBN   0-8135-3845-9.
  3. "Lalo Schifrin Swings". LA Weekly. 22 May 2003. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  4. "Schifrin interview with Miguel Ángel Ordóñez & Pablo Nieto for Score Magacine (translated from the original Spanish)". 2005-05-20. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
  5. "Sony Pictures. Tango: The Production. Production notes". Archived from the original on 2002-06-08. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
  6. "Aleph Records discography". Retrieved 2012-06-25.
  7. Archived 17 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Carlo Curly & Mathis Music". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2006.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. "Lipton Yellow Label Tea: Mission Impossible?". Popsop. Archived from the original on 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2012-06-25.
  10. "Grammy news release". GRAMMYs. 30 April 2017.