Along with composers Piero Piccioni, Riz Ortolani, and Armando Sciascia, Piero Umiliani is one of the unsung heroes of soundtrack music. Incorporating styles like jazz, easy listening/lounge, rock, funk, and bossa nova to a genre largely dominated by orchestral scores, he penned some of the most outstanding film music from the '60s and '70s with over 150 titles under his belt.
Born in Florence in 1926, his interest in music sprang from a very early age, leading to his enrollment in the conservatory of his native town. After moving to Rome and playing in a jazz octet, Umiliani inaugurated his career in cinema with the documentary Piccola Suite Americana per Quattro Ance (1954), followed by a string of commissions mainly for Italian exploitation movies of little repercussion. His soundtrack to the 1968 pseudo-documentary Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso won worldwide acclaim thanks to the inclusion of the celebrated hit "Ma Nah Ma Nah," later featured in The Muppet Show. Some remarkable titles in Umiliani's discography include La Ragazza Dalla Pelle di Luna (1974), La Morte Bussa Due Volte (1969), Il Corpo (1974), and 5 Bambole per la Luna d'Agosto (1970), an indisputable masterpiece of the genre combining outlandish samba, Hammond-centered jazz, heavy brass sections, harpsichords, and sexy female choruses in a fantastic collection that has echoes in the work of eccentric pop bands like Stereolab and Pram or Mr. Bungle and related projects. In 2000, the Italian label Easy Tempo put together a compilation of Umiliani's electronic and synthesizer music under the title Musicaelettronica, Vol. 1. Umiliani died on February 14, 2001. ~ Efrén del Valle Peñamil