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Mike Lang, Leading Jazz and Studio Pianist, Dies at 80

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Jon Burlingame editorMike Lang, one of the preeminent pianists in Hollywood history, died of lung cancer Friday morning at his home in Studio City.

He was 80.Lang played piano (or organ, harpsichord or celeste) on an estimated 2,000 film and TV scores dating back to the mid-1960s, including scores by virtually every great film composer of the past 50 years: John Williams (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Catch Me If You Can”), Jerry Goldsmith (“Gremlins,” “The Russia House”), John Barry (“Body Heat,” “The Specialist”), Henry Mancini (“10”), Alex North (“The Shoes of the Fisherman”), Elmer Bernstein (“The Rainmaker”), Miklós Rózsa (“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”) and many others.Composer Lalo Schifrin (“Mission: Impossible”) was among Lang’s earliest champions in Hollywood, adding Lang’s piano to what eventually became the Grammy-winning Paul Horn album “Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts” in 1965.

Lang played piano for Schifrin on dozens of subsequent albums and film scores including the Oscar-nominated “The Competition” and “The Sting II.” Lang also played for composers including James Newton Howard (“Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Lady in the Water”), Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin”), Marc Shaiman (“City Slickers”), John Debney (“Dreamer”), Hans Zimmer (“As Good As It Gets,” “Pearl Harbor”), Randy Newman (“Toy Story,” “Secretariat”), Danny Elfman (“Batman Returns”), Bill Conti (“The Right Stuff”) and Clint Eastwood (“The Bridges of Madison County”), among others.Composer Howard, also a pianist, told Variety: “Mike was a dear friend, colleague and teacher, gifted with monumental talent.

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