Home > Reviews > RANDOM HEARTS – Dave Grusin


randomheartsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Despite having written some truly lovely orchestral scores in his career, notably Havana and On Golden Pond, Dave Grusin’s first love is and always will be jazz. In the liner notes for this release of his score for Random Hearts, Grusin muses that “no-one loves romantic music more than Sidney Pollack”, but it was felt that on this project he was “looking for something a little more lean and stark” than on their other nine collaborations. A consummate craftsman, Grusin responded with an intriguing, engaging jazz score. Random Hearts stars Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott-Thomas, two secure professional people in fulfilling relationships whose lives are torn apart when their respective partners are killed in the same plane crash. It soon transpires that, unbeknown to Ford and Thomas, his wife and her husband were having an affair with each other, a fact which, when combined with the sense of grief and betrayal felt by the surviving spouses, gradually draws them together. Part tragedy, part melodrama, part romance, Random Hearts sounds great on paper but, unfortunately, failed to set the box office alight, instead ending up as Harrison Ford’s first major flop in over a decade.

Grusin’s attempts to salvage the picture’s dignity took the form of a three-pronged musical attack, combining an all-star jazz quartet with a couple of lively Latino tunes and some more straightforward orchestral underscoring. The jazz quartet’s efforts are arguably the most interesting parts of the score, mainly because you rarely hear this kind of original music being composed for films in the 90s. With Terence Blanchard on trumpet, John Patitucci on bass, Harvey Mason beating the drums and Grusin himself tickling the ivories, cues such as ‘Looking for Peyton’ and the ‘Love Theme’ induce a notion of moody sensuality and forlorn romanticism. It’s late night, smoky, Jack Daniels kind of music. You know what I mean.

The majority of the remaining tracks vary only slightly in style, with cues such as ‘Dutch’, ‘Phone Call Soliloquy’, ‘Decisions’ and ‘Personal Effects’ effectively maintaining the gritty, noirish quality of the others but with the addition of an orchestral string section. Especially notable in some of these cues are Patitucci’s wonderfully mellow bass performances, some of which are reminiscent of Alan Silvestri’s work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but which reverberate magnificently around the room with the volume up high. Of the others, only ‘Keys’, ‘Closing In’ and ‘Seasonal Changes’ break the mold in any significant manner, the former two containing brief action motifs bookended by Grusin’s delicate piano and Blanchard’s sultry trumpet, and the latter building to a lovely string-based climax.

At the other end of the scale, ‘Playa Del Sul’ and ‘Aquí En Miami’ are a couple of vibrant Latino themes full of energy and passion, capturing the essence of the Florida night life. As with the jazz sections, Grusin was able to draw upon his vast range of musical contacts in bringing together some of the best Latin performers in the business. You know you’re on to a winner when you have Nestor Torres making his flute dance merrily above Rene Toledo’s Spanish guitar, and Arturo Sandoval himself singing and wringing every last ounce of vitality from his trumpets.

I recommend Random Hearts because, unlike most films which deal with loss, redemption and romance, it does not have a sappy score mercilessly manipulating and pulling on the heart strings of the viewer in every scene, attempting to wring every single tear from the audience’s ducts by the time the credits roll. Grusin’s particular style of gentle and undemanding jazz is less banal and far more mature than that, and credit should be given to him for writing music for adults, for a film which deals with adult fears and relationships. If low key jazz is not to your liking, then I can fully understand why this might not appeal to a large percentage of film score fans. Normally, I’m not a fan of jazz myself – but I certainly like this.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Looking For Peyton (3:42)
  • Dutch (2:27)
  • Cabin Fever (2:32)
  • Playa Del Sul (4:57)
  • Random Hearts Love Theme (4:11)
  • Phone Call Soliloquy (2:27)
  • The Folks Who Live On The Hill (written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, performed by Diane Krall) (4:20)
  • Keys (2:27)
  • Aquí En Miami (written by Arturo Sandoval, Chieto Quinonez and Dave Grusin, performed by Arturo Sandoval and Chieto) (3:47)
  • Decisions (2:15)
  • Intimate Distance (2:27)
  • Passengers (2:35)
  • Personal Effects (2:54)
  • Seasonal Changes (2:48)
  • Closing In (2:12)
  • Good Thing (written and performed by Patty Larkin) (4:55)

Running Time: 50 minutes 57 seconds

Sony Classical SK-51336 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Dave Grusin. Performed by Terence Blanchard, John Patitucci, Harvey Mason, Dave Grusin, Nestor Torres, Rene Toledo, Manny Lopez, Mike Orta, Jorge Casas, Edwin Bonilla, Ernesto Simpson, Manuel “Iggy” Castrillo and Arturo Sandoval. Recorded and mixed by Don Murray and Eric Schilling. Edited by Robert Vosgien and Scott Grusin. Mastered by Don Murray and Robert Vosgien. Album produced by Dave Grusin.

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