Schifrin Plays A Winning Hand. by filmfactsman (June 14, 2005)
Norman Jewison’s suspenseful "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965), is the story of a young stud poker player pitted against a championship card-shark played by Edward G. Robinson, who’s very presence managed to upstage even McQueen’s delicately judged performance.
Lalo Schifrin was, at that time of the film’s release, a member of the “Swinging Sixties” generation of musical composer-conductors and his composition and styling of music possessed a unique sound all their own. His Cincinnati Kid score opens with Ray Charles’s beautiful vocal version of the title music and moves into an exciting section of jazz pieces. The brassy upbeat jazz club big band cues are intermixed with some wonderful after midnight blues saxophone and piano cues giving a excellent variety of styles and moods. The harmonica versions of the main title are particularly unforgettable. In the denouement of the film, when sweet victory is present for one, the abject defeat for the other, Schifrin skillfully blends his opposing themes into a muted pitch of tension which sustains until broken by the turn of the hole card.
Schifrin would soon follow "Cincinnati Kid" with back-to-back Oscar-nominated scores for "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) and "The Fox" (1968) and the memorable "Bullitt" (1968), all now available on his Aleph label.
In 1997, Lalo Schifrin's wife Donna founded Aleph Records, a label that exclusively releases music composed and conducted by the Argentine maestro. One of the company's latest products is this 2002 re-mastered recording of "The Cincinnati Kid", and is one of its best releases.