Lalo Schifrin: Mannix

Douglas Payne By

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Here is the music that has - until now - been something like the Holy Grail in Lalo Schifrin's catalog. The original 1969 Paramount LP is one of the composer's best and most dynamic collections of sounds. But it's proven to be too expensive or too impossible for fans to locate. Even the composer himself has spent the last year or so attempting to get the Paramount LP released on CD. But after ongoing frustrations, he opted to record the music again (presenting the even tougher challenge of locating or recreating the original score).

Heading to Cologne, Germany in June 1999 and utilizing the talents of the WDR Big Band, Schifrin redid all 11 of the LP's original tracks, commendably utilizing the sometimes dated Sixties sound and arrangements of the originals. It's worth remembering that the 1969 LP, like the 1968 Warner Bros. "soundtrack" to Bullitt, is more a collection of variations of themes than an original soundtrack.

When Mission: Impossible producer Bruce Geller approached Schifrin about doing Mannix in 1967, the CBS-TV show was built around a classic hard-boiled detective employed by Intertect, a computerized detective agency. Schifrin styled a clever alternative to the suggestion of computerized music by creating the lively jazz waltz that became the main theme. He recorded many of the show's initial cues — action and suspense motifs (like "Variations" from Louis Bellson and Schifrin's 1964 LP, Explorations ) and variations of the theme - that were used throughout the rest of the series. Such composers as Dick Hazard and Jerry Fielding scored individual shows. The series proved popular enough to last through 1975.

But by the second season, Mannix (Mike Connors) left Intertect, adopted the kinder persona he's known for and hired Peggy Fair (the wonderful Gail Fisher) as his secretary. It was during the show's third season (1969-70) that Geller brought Schifrin back to Mannix. Indeed, Schifrin scored many of the season's shows and expertly provided for the show's increasing use of "source music" — the music heard in the background at bars, on stereos or from radios. With one exception (the action cue, "Hunt Down"), the original LP consisted of variations of this source music. Bruce Geller, who co-wrote "Beyond the Shadow of Today" with Schifrin, was probably in charge of choosing which songs were included on the LP. The titles of most songs — also, most likely, Geller's choice — were, more or less, based on episode titles and had nothing to do with the episodes they were named for.

Here, Schifrin recasts his themes in such a way that suggests only recording techniques have improved. TV music just doesn't get this compelling much anymore. These are fully developed jazz-like themes, well-plotted with all the elements of an exciting story, rife with strong melodies, tension-filled countermelodies and exciting ("The Shadow," "Fear," "Hunt Down") or sensual ("Warning: Live Blueberries," "The End Of The Rainbow") rhythms. Nothing here is merely the riff-based stuff cop shows became famous for in the 1970s.

Also included on this new CD are four somewhat related themes, whose sounds and titles - "Sao Paolo After Dark," (a Latinized version of Schifrin's Hit! theme), "Curtains For A Murder," "You Should Have Known" and "The Vienna Incident" - seem more appropriate to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Schifrin ought to have included some of his equally jazzy Mission: Impossible music ("Cinnamon," "Midnight Courier," "Mission Blues") that Geller also used for many episodes of Mannix. A silly guitar-heavy dance version of the main theme ("Mannix Mixdown") is also included for no very good reason.

Still, what a quibble. This is outstanding music, engagingly performed, thankfully available once again. One final note: the terrible cover art is a true disservice to the excellent music found within this package. Schifrin deserves a better presentation for such classy, and extremely enjoyable music. The worse-than-bootleg look of the cover presents something that doesn't feel right. One listen will prove otherwise. Mannix makes for essential Lalo Schifrin listening.

Tracks:Mannix (short version); Hunt Down; The Shadow; Sao Paolo After Dark; Turn Every Stone; Warning: Live Blueberries; Beyond The Shadow of Today; The Girl Who Came In With The Tide; The Edge of Night; Curtains For a Murder; The End Of The Rainbow; You Should Have Known; End Game; The Vienna Incident; Fear; Mannix (Long Version); Mannix Mixdown.

Players:WDR Big Band: Andy Haderer, Rob Bruynen, Klaus Osterloh, John Marshall, Rick Kiefer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Horler, Ludwig Nuss, Bernt Laukamp: trombone; Lucas Schmid: bass trombone; Andrew Joy: French horn; Heiner Wiberny, Harald Rosenstein, Olivier Peters, Rolf Romer, Elmar Frey, Jens Neufang: reeds; Frank Chastenier: piano, organ, harpsichord; Paul Shigihara: guitar; John Goldsby: bass; Wolfgang Haffner, John Riley: drums; with Ruy Folguera: synth programming, remix; Toshi Yanagi: guitar; and orchestra: Gustav Kedves, Charles Putnam, Ludwig Rast, Christine Chapman: French horn; Ed Partyka, Harmut Muller: tuba; Janos Szudy, Thomas Steiner, Egmont Kraus, Romanus Schottler: percussion; Mischa Salevic, Juraj Cizmarovic: violin; Hans E. Schroder-Conrad: viola; Joachim Griesheimer: cello; Saskia Kwast: harp; Gaby Goldberg, Caren Faust, Elke Klien: vocal; Lalo Schifrin: composer, conductor, piano.

| Record Label: Aleph Records | Style: Fringes of Jazz


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