Piero Umiliani obituary

 By John Bender (from Film Score Monthly's website, February 2001) 

Italian composer Piero Umiliani passed away in February after a long illness. John Bender provided the following for FSM but we were not able to get it in time for our deadline. Here it is on the website for interested enthusiasts:

Maestro Piero Umiliani was born in Florence, Italy, in 1926 and developed an interest in music early in his childhood. At the age of 14, Piero purchased a Duke Ellington relase called Hot Duke. This contraband record (American music was forbidden under Mussolini) set the course of Umiliani's life. Enraptured by the particular delights of jazz, Piero went on to study composition with Vito Frazzi. He graduated from the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Florence, having majored in counterpoint and fugue. 

Relocating to Rome, he quickly achieved success as a pianist, conductor and arranger. His score for the film I Soliti Ignoti (1958) attracted much attention, and opened the door in Italy for jazz as a viable genre in support of the cinematic narrative. 

During the late '50s and early '60s, Piero incorporated trumpet performances of the legendary Chet Baker into a number of his film assignments. Alongside his peers at the top of the soundtrack composers' hierarchy -- Morricone, Nicolai, Trovaioli, Piccioni, DeMasi, Pisano, Rustichelli and Lavagnino -- Umiliani wrote music for every type of picture during the peak period of film production in Italy. 

Thanks to the recent efforts of Rocco Paniani (Easy Tempo) many of Piero Umiliani's best scores have been preserved and made available to a new generation; titles such as White Angel...Black Angel, Sweden: Heaven and Hell, The Woman With the Skin of the Moon and Gangster's Law are prime examples of this man's potent legacy. Gangster's Law (La Egge Dei Gangsters, 1969) is of particular importance as it is undoubtedly one of the greatest works of post-war orchestral jazz, in or out of a film. 

Gangster's Law is one of several films on which our own Ralph Ferraro played drums under Umiliani's baton (Mr. Ferraro should be known to FSM readers as a prominent session musician and an orchestrator on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A Man Called Horse and Gettysburg). Ralph expressed to me his great regret upon learning of Piero's passing. Ralph spent of a lot of time with the composer, including many live broadcasts of jazz performances over the Radio All'Italiana. He shared that, despite a powerful talent and much success, Umiliani never lost his sense of kindness and gentle, fun-loving spirit. 

Film Score Monthly

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