Lalo Schifrin

Letters from Argentina

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Lalo Schifrin has a significant commercial presence in the U.S. and Europe, with a strong following for jazzy soundtrack music like the immortal theme for the old Mission: Impossible television series. He remains active as a Hollywood soundtrack composer (Rush Hour and Bringing Down the House are among his productions), but, like Ennio Morricone, he has also found room for more or less experimental non-soundtrack projects of his own. Even many of his fans may not realize that he came from Argentina and retains strong ties to that country. Letters from Argentina is Schifrin's affectionate tribute to the music of his homeland, which seems once you know about his origins to have influenced his American music in various ways. The music on this disc is heavy on tangos, with four of the eight compositions included making use of the tango rhythm (track 7, La calle y la luna [The Street and the Moon], is a tango, although it's not specifically named as one). One piece, the opening Tango del atardecer, is from a film soundtrack, and the rest seem as though they could be; all are strongly atmospheric, straining every musical muscle in the direction of evoking a specific mood. The strongest qualities of the album show through in the arrangements, in which Schifrin shows himself to be a real pro: given an all-star group of instrumentalists that includes violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Néstor Marconi, the reigning master of the Argentine bandoneón, he creates an impromptu tango ensemble that sounds as though it's been playing together for years. The music is beautifully recorded, and a DVD presentation (not reviewed here) is included on one side of the "reversible" compact disc. An attractive item for tango lovers; a must-have for admirers of Schifrin.

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