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Lalo Schifrin: Flying Tigers

This newly released album has a history reaching back to 1976, leading to some doubt about the identity of the players; but there is little doubt Lalo was conducting them. ’76 was an exhausting year for him: scores for movies like “The Fox,” Voyage of the Damned;” TV episodes for “Mission Impossible,” “Mannix,” “Starsky & Hutch.” Plenty on his plate; plenty on his mind…a mind capable of shifting gears and functioning in the milieux of jazz and classical with equal ease and equal success. It’s only natural to be drawn to this CD on the strength of Schifrin’s reputation.

However, buyer beware: The music contained herein is neither jazz nor classical. It exists in that limbo familiar to movie-goers. A huge orchestra, lush strings, bold brass, even exotic instruments. Two of the latter can be heard in the score for Sky Riders — cembalo and bouzouki — since much of the film’s action takes place in the Greek islands. If you can resign yourself to visual cues, you will appreciate how Schifrin captures the child-like essence of “Flying Circus;” the menacing portrait of “The Terrorists,” or the flowing motions of “Copters and Gliders.” Those tracks are the highlights.

After 100+ movie and TV scores, 4 Grammy awards and 6 Oscars, Lalo can hopefully appreciate an update (or, as they call it in Hollywood, “restoration”) of his 33-year-old score by veteran arranger-composer Mike Matessini. It’s all in the name of Marketing: restoring involves skillful editing to make original cues fit new CDs or DVDs. It won’t change my earlier caveat. It still isn’t jazz — just damn good music.

Originally Published