“Piero Umiliani’s music career is one of the greatest contributions to film scoring in history, sitting in the ranks with some of the best that has Italy has had to offer. His work on the explosive soundtrack score scene in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is prolific, showcasing dozens of albums for every kind of film imaginable and leading him to a revival with the help of iconic film makers such as Quentin Tarantino. Piero didn’t stop with just film scoring, releasing albums conceptually under different names that have surfaced through rarity blog sites and YouTube. Below is a special and very rare track by the name of “Risaie.” Sourced from the archives of Umiliani that was released under his Zalla moniker and released in 1971 on the imprint Liuto Records, the sound is something that hip hop producers such as Madlib and MF DOOM really thrive for in their sample work. The reprint done in 1980 by Ciak Records is the version that most people have been exposed to and is the source for the album cover that you see in this article.
Betweeen the end of the 60’s and the beginning of the 70’s, Umiliani works for cult movies like “Cinque Bambole per la Luna d’Agosto” (“Five Dolls for an August Moon”) by Mario Bava with Edwige Fenech, “La Ragazza dalla Pelle di Luna” (“The Sinner”) by Luigi Scattini with Zeudi Araya, “Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso” (“Sweden Heaven and Hell”) also by Luigi Scattini in which Umiliani composes his famous Mah Nà Mah Nà and “La Pupa del Gagster” (“Get Rita”) starring the great couple Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren directed by Giorgio Capitani. From the very beginning the Maestro works also for the radio and television. One of his first experiences is the Sanremo Festival (1957) in which he participates in the “free authors” section and then he continues with the music direction of the TV show Il Mattatore with Vittorio Gassman (1960). In the following years he hosts the TV shows Moderato Swing (1961) and Fuori l’Orchestra (1963) that bring jazz in the homes of the Italian audience, without mentioning the large number of themes composed by the Maestro for all kinds of TV programs. In 1969 the Maestro goes up music charts all over the world, when Mah nà Mah nà becomes the theme of the famous Muppets’ Show created by Jim Henson. By the end of his career he has written more than 150 soundtracks, without considering the music composed for documentaries, theatre and television. He is also a great collector of music instruments from all over the world, and in 1970 he is one of the first in Italy to experiment with the Moog and other electronic keyboards. These experimentations, that anticipate the times, do not find the support of Italian producers and so Umiliani uses his own label to produce records like “Omaggio a Einstein”, “Tra Scienza e Fantascienza”, “Synthi Time”, “L’Uomo e la Città”. These records still sound incredibly modern and are real cult objects among collectors and Right Tempo label has recently reprinted some of them in CD format. Some of the greatest names of Italian culture ask for Umiliani’s collaboration in different projects. He composes the music for Cesare Zavattini’s docu-film “I Misteri di Roma”. Pier Paolo Pasolini is the author of the lyrics of songs written by Umiliani for Laura Betti. Dino Buzzati wants him to write the music for a new play. Towards the end of 1982 Umiliani decides to make a change in his career and to start playing with a Big Band in live concerts all over Italy bringing jazz to the great public, like Duke Ellington and Count Basie had done in the US. Unfortunately this exciting project is never carried through. In February 1984, Piero Umiliani suffers a stroke while coming back from the RAI studios in Via Asiago (Rome) after being interviewed on the radio. His life and career seem over, but it is not so.”