Lalo Schifrin


Pictured here, Lalo Schifrin performs at the SCL Ambassador induction ceremony December 8, 2008.

Excerpted from Dan Foliart’s remarks at the SCL Ambassador induction ceremony December 8, 2008:

Few of our peers can truly be designated as icons in our profession, but Lalo Schifrin redefines the term. Lalo’s unmistakable creative touch has had far reaching impact on every area of our profession. From jazz composer, arranger and performer, to classical composer and conductor to consummate film composer, Lalo Schifrin’s talents have run the gamut, each time putting his unmistakable touch on each genre as no one else can.

Born into a musical family in Argentina, his father was the concertmaster of the Philharmonic orchestra of Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colon for over thirty years. Lalo’s formal studies began at the age of six and at an early age he had the opportunity to work with some of the finest instructors in composition, harmony and piano over the next decade and a half. After initially enrolling in classes in sociology and law at the University of Buenos Aires, his attention soon turned back to music. He continued his studies at the Paris Conservatory, enrolling in classes with Olivier Messiaen while also beginning his career in jazz as a composer and performer. After moving back to Buenos Aires and forming his own concert band, he met Dizzy Gillespie, who asked him to be his pianist and arranger. His long association with Dizzy was a fruitful one, which yielded such celebrated works as Gillespiana and numerous recordings such as Dizzy Gillespie Rarities, Dizzy on the French Riviera, and A Musical Safari. His work in the jazz arena has produced an impressive list of critically acclaimed albums over the last four decades, both as a solo artist and in tandem with such luminaries as Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughn. Fortunate for all of us, many of these have become available on his own label.

His remarkable work in television and film has given us scores that are considered classics in our genre. Beginning this facet of his career with Rhino in 1963, he has composed over one hundred scores and the list continues to grow every day. He has received accolades from Film festivals around the world and garnered three Golden Globe nominations. He has received Academy Award nominations for his scores to Cool Hand Luke, The Fox, Voyage of the Damned and The Amityville Horror and for the song, People Alone from The Competition, which he also scored and the Best Adaptation Score for, The Sting II. Just a few of his other memorable movie scores are, Bullitt, The Cincinnati Kid, Rollercoaster, The Eagle Has Landed, and recently Rush Hour I, II and III, Tango, Bringing Down the House, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, After the Sunset, and his son Ryan’s first horror feature film as writer and director, Abominable. No more significant relationship has been fostered than with director/actor, Clint Eastwood. His scores have always added the Schifrin touch that have helped to make these collaborations, notably Coogan’s Bluff, Sudden Impact, Magnum Force, and Dirty Harry some of the box office’s biggest hits.

When Lalo has turned his talent to television the results have been equally impressive. The Mannix theme is by any estimation, one of the greatest themes in television drama. I just returned from Auxcerre, France, where the closing ceremony of a week of celebration of the 100 years of Film Music ended with an impressive concert of film classics. The encore of the evening was an electrifying version of Mission Impossible, and it did bring down the house. Not only did this score receive an Emmy nomination, it received two Grammy awards, and four nominations. It spent over thirty weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100. Among other classic scores that Lalo has done for television are T.H.E. Cat (which also received a Grammy), Starsky and Hutch, The Big Valley, Medical Center (which was one of the first uses of synthesizer in television), The Making of a President (1964), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., See How They Run, and the epic mini-series, A.D.

His work as a conductor and composer of concert music is as vast as his other musical pursuits. His travels and guest conducting assignments have taken him around the world and most have generated recordings as well. To list a few of these sojourns: Vienna with Natalie Cole and Diana Ross on two separate occasions, Marseilles, in celebration of the Lumiere Brothers and the birth of film, Cologne, Germany with his Latin Jazz Suite. Adelaide, Australia for his sixth Jazz Meets the Symphony Concert. The pyramid of Teotihuacán, outside Mexico City with the Dances Concertantes and numerous concerts with the Three Tenors as well as six Years as Music Director with the Glendale Symphony.

Lalo has received awards over the course of his long and distinguished career too numerous to mention. Besides having a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, he is the recipient of the BMI Lifetime Achievement Award, and ASMAC’s Golden Score Award. In 2004 SACEM and the Cannes Film Festival honored him for his significant contributions to music, film and culture, as he was in 2003 by the City of Los Angeles, LA County and the California Legislature. The Israel Government honored him for his Contributions to World Understanding Through Music. We at the Society of Composers and Lyricists are pleased to honor Lalo Schifrin with our 2008 SCL Ambassador Award.