Happy Birthday Lalo Schifrin

June 21, 1932

A Tribute to the arranger-composer-pianist

Pianist, arranger, and composer Claudio “Lalo” Schifrin was born on June 21, 1932, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Schifrin, whose father was a classical violinist, began extensive piano studies at the age of six.

After studying sociology and law at the University of Buenos Aires, Schifrin turned his focus towards music. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire when he was 20 and also played jazz in Paris nightclubs.

Back in Argentina, he led a big band for a television variety show, worked in the studios, and in 1956, met Dizzy Gillespie, who offered him a job whenever he came to New York.

In 1958, Schifrin moved to the U.S., but since Gillespie already had Junior Mance as the pianist in his quintet, he worked as an arranger for Xavier Cugat.

In 1960, Schifrin finally became the pianist with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, contributing two major works: Gillespiana (which he had composed in 1958) and The New Continent.

Three years later, Schifrin left Dizzy, wrote his first major film score, and moved to Hollywood, where he wrote prolifically for movies and television.

Lalo Schifrin has composed for a remarkable number of productions, with his best-known piece being the “Theme From Mission Impossible.”

A virtuoso pianist, he has not lost his skills or love for jazz, recording several “Jazz Meets The Symphony” albums that feature him with jazz all-stars (including trumpeter Jon Faddis) and an orchestra.

Here is Lalo Schifrin in 1994 with a German Orchestra, trumpeter/trombonist James Morrison, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Grady Tate, performing “Down Here On The Ground,” “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” “Brush Strokes,” “Blues In The Basement,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “Madrigal,” and “The Theme From Mission Impossible.”

-Scott Yanow