Jazz Professional               



A new direction

A Third Sream Triumph
Each Film has its own sound
My approaches to the film score
A musical alchemist
A new direction
Talking to Howard Lucraft in 1994

Photo: Howard Lucraft

The last time I spoke to Lalo Schifrin we talked about his activities as a leading Hollywood film composer. Now Lalo has a new direction. Temporarily he is not accepting the many film offers that come his way. Instead he is concentrating on his new interest—Jazz Meets The Symphony’.

The success of Lalo’s first CD on Atlantic has prompted a second, and even more exciting disc ‘More Jazz Meets The Symphony’. Lalo’s compositions and arrangements showcase himself on piano along with bassist Ray Brown, Grady Tate on drums and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

At Lalo’s plush Beverly Hills mansion he told me: ‘This direction is really the story of my life. My father was concertmaster of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. As a teenager I discovered my voice in jazz.” It was a dichotomy. His father said that jazz is not music because it is improvised. “If you can’t write it down, it’s not music”, averred Papa Schifrin.

Lalo studied music in Paris. To make a living he did gigs at night with tenorist Bobby Jasper. He tried to get the music school students interested in jazz. He told them: “Some of the chords we use in jazz come from Ravel. The bridge of ‘Cherokee’ comes from this music although the composer probably didn’t know it.” (Ray Noble was, of course, as aware of Ravel as the young Schifrin.) Lalo opined that he was sort of musically schizophrenic but he did feel a strong kinship with Gunther Schuller, Andre Previn and pianist Frederic Gulda from Europe, all of whom melded jazz with traditional classical writing.

“Hank Mancini (with ‘Peter Gunn’) and Johnny Mandel (with ‘I Want To Live’) had opened the door for a fusion of jazz and symphony so I came to Hollywood”, Lalo informed. “I write something for the symphony that (behind the jazz) is fun for them-not just whole notes on strings.” Charlie Parker died before Lalo came to New York. “I was in France at the time, playing with Bobby Jasper. We made one minute of silence. Then our alto man played ‘Loverman’.” Lalo had special praise for the soloists on his new CD. Trumpeter Jon Faddis is the main soloist and Australian James Morrison (“he plays absolutely every instrument”) is featured on flugelhorn, trombone and piccolo trumpet in A.

It was, of course, Dizzy Gillespie who brought Lalo to the United States from the Argentine. Dizzy became Lalo’s greatest friend and mentor. “Dizzy was master musician”, Lalo told me. “He virtually taught everybody. He taught Max Roach how to play the drums. He knew all the positions on the bass. He once showed Charlie Mingus how to play a phrase. Dizzy had a phenomenal ear. We were once doing a piece at breakneck speed with a full symphony orchestra and Dizzy stopped the orchestra to ask the bassist: ‘How can you play a B natural in an E minor 7 with a flat fifth?‘.” British audiences will have the opportunity to hear the Schifrin “Jazz Meets The Symphony” this autumn when “The Longhair Who Swings” makes an extended European tour.

Copyright © 1994 Howard Lucraft. All Rights Reserved.