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A prolific film composer, Schifrin was introduced to music by his father, a violinist with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. He won a scholarship to study music in Paris, where he encountered jazz in the thriving American expatriate scene. Schifrin was soon performing as a jazz pianist himself and formed a combo that competed at the 1955 International Jazz Festival. He met bebop pioneer trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie at this time, and Gillespie became a key supporter and collaborator.
Schifrin moved to the United States in 1958 and began working in jazz, composing and arranging for Gillespie and others. Quincy Jones gave him an entree into the studio system in Los Angeles, and Schifrin quickly became one of the most popular and successful film and television composers of the 1960s, writing such hits as the theme for Mission: Impossible.
Schifrin's talents range far beyond soundtrack work--as suggested by the title of one of his 60s albums, "There's a Whole Lalo Schifrin Going On." He has recorded intermittently as a jazz pianist since the early 1960s, and he has written a number of "serious" jazz compositions such as "Dialogues for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra" (for Cannonball Adderley) and "Jazz Suite on the Mass Text" (for Paul Horn).
His 1974 album, "Black Widow," may mark the end of the original exotica era (or the start of its revival), with its covers of such exotica standards as "Quiet Village" and "Moonglow/Theme from 'Picnic.'"
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