Mission Impossible My Life in Music/Lalo Schifrin

September 4, 2008


Seldom am I allowed the opportunity to discuss a book, as frankly there aren’t a whole lot of books written about anyone connected to the film industry. While soundtracks these days are being released daily, newly found material being re-discovered, re-mastering of old classics, and new recordings of golden age material, new books seem to be more on a yearly basis. Well this is my chance to talk about not only a wonderful film composer but a jazz and classical musician and composer as well.

Published by Scarecrow Press as part of their jazz series (56 so far), it is edited by Richard Palmer author and editor of numerous jazz publications. Included with the book is an audio CD of material taken from the Aleph label (Lalo owned), a really nice compilation of his music career. The name Aleph came about as a result of the fact that most record companies didn’t know how to categorize him. The story by Borges, El Aleph has to do with the converging of all events in the universe, thus the label name. And I thought it was named after the first name of the Hebrew alphabet meaning a leader!

The book is divided into 8 sections beginning with Roots and Beginnings, Gillespiana, Film, Symphonic Variations, Donna, and others. The material on Dizzy Gillespie is priceless and worth getting the book for that section alone. He was called Dizzy for a reason and the tales are well dizzy! A quote from Dizzy I’ll always remember is “To be or not to bop”, the beginning of one of the chapters.

There is only one section in the book about his involvement in the film business, even though his scores and composer work number nearly 200 in the IMDB database, over twice the amount of other compositions. The story about William “Exorcist” Friedkin is one that you must read. It will surprise you as much as it did me! His Emmy award winning Mission Impossible, while not the original television soundtrack is given a very nice jazz treatment and the “Shifting Gears” track from Bullitt are included on the CD. While on the subject of films Bullitt is a must have score for your collection and the finest movie material Lalo ever did.

The 9 tracks of the CD are an excellent compilation of recorded material that Lalo did over the years. His use of the Stravinsky Firebird Suite as a bridge between songs that Charlie Parker performed was extremely well orchestrated and the highlight of the CD. There are also selections from Letters from Argentina, Jazz Mass, Gillespiana, and Sketches of Miles. All of the material has superb arranging, taking it a step above the ‘pops arrangements’ one might hear at a summer concert, with D’Rivera, Tate, Brown, and especially Jon Faddis on the trumpet adding the right flavor of jazz.

The center of the book offers over 20 pages of photo covering a wide range of his life. The printing I’m sorry to report doesn’t do justice to the quality making some of them quite dark, gray, and muddy flat contrast. While we are not buying a picture book and I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is a reason not to buy the book it would have been nice if the quality could have been better.

In conclusion, I found this book to be a pleasant and easy read, material that I will go back to for reference from time to time especially the composer credits and discography. Even soundtrack collectors will find this volume to be acceptable. If one were to subtract $16.95 for the cost of the CD a price of only $13.00 would be an excellent bargain for this book. As far as I know the CD will not be offered separately. Recommended. The book is available thru normal outlets and the publisher. http://www.scarecrowpress.com/Catalog/Singlebook.shtml?command=Search&db=%5EDB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdatarq=0810859467

Track Listing:

1… Mission: Impossible (3:11)

2… Sketches of Miles (12:27)

3…Letters from Argentina (4:53)*

4… Ins and Outs (5:06)

5… Latin Jazz Suite (7:35)*

6… Shifting Gears (3:12)

7… Jazz Mass (6:25)*

8… Charlie Parker (14:17)

9…Gillespie (14:35)*

Total Time is 71:41

* Part of a work

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