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JADE – James Horner

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Weintraub Entertainment purchased the script for Jade from the famous writer Joe Eszterhas, who had gained earlier acclaim and commercial success for sexual thrillers such as Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct. Paramount Studios eventually came to select William Friedkin (of The Exorcist and The French Connection fame) to direct. The film deals with a woman’s secret life and a classic love triangle consisting of psychologist Dr. Katrina Gavin (played by Linda Florentino), her husband Matt Gavin (played by Chazz Palminteri) and politically ambitious District Attorney David Corelli – her ex-boyfriend – played by David Caruso.

The movie opens with the discovery of a horrific and brutal murder of a man found wearing a fertility mask who apparently died in flagrante delicto. Katrina, a prominent psychologist, assists her ex-boyfriend David and husband Matt in investigating the murder, unbeknownst to both men that she is also a seductress named Jade who frequently met the murdered man at his beach house. This truly sordid and vulgar story involved graphic sadomasochism, frontal nudity, enough verbal obscenity to offer challenge to the US 7th Fleet, and a truly over the top San Francisco car chase to boot was to put it mildly a critical and box office failure. But we are here for the music…

This film had significant controversy. According to writer Joe Eszterhas’s autobiography he hated the final film. He complained to Paramount that director William Friedkin had changed his script so much as to make it unrecognizable, and as such he threatened to remove his name from the credits. Paramount opted to settle with him by agreeing to a “blind script deal” worth two to four million dollars – but this was not the end of controversy. When William Friedkin approached James Horner to write the score he was already having one of his most prolific years ever with Casper, Balto, Jumanji, Braveheart and Apollo 13. Yet Horner accepted what turned out to be a significant challenge as he and Friedkin had different sensibilities in presenting the film’s emotional narrative. Friedkin stated that he wanted Stravinsky’s classical piece Rite of Spring integrated into the score, and publicly added that “I don’t like scores that direct the audience into how they should feel.” You can guess what transpired! Anyone that understands Horner at all knows of his supreme talent of discerning a film’s emotional narrative and then composing music that forthrightly and powerfully emotes this narrative. Well, the tug and pull between director and composer perhaps contributed to one of the most disjointed, eclectic and fascinating scores Horner has ever written. Sadly, in the end, a significant portion of the score was modified or excised due to “creative differences”. Rumors of significant and antagonistic creative disagreement persist to this day.

Let us begin our journey into the darkness that is this score. The unsettling opening track is really quite fascinating and encompasses three cues; “Main Title/The Murder Scene/Drive to the Airport”. The impressionistic “Main Title” opens darkly with a single drum beat soon joined by a heavy bass triplet with a series of rapid and percussive piano strikes and Chinese flute accents. As the base motif and percussive piano runs continue, ascending pizzicato strings and eerie synth echoes join to create an uncomfortable ambiance. At the 1:20 mark a sharp cymbal shimmer segues the music into “The Murder Scene” and the first referencing of the song “Mystic Dream” by Loreena McKennitt, which Horner drew upon time and time again throughout the score. The stark drum beat, heavy bass and undulating synth echoes continue and swell with synth celli and dissonant violins as David first views the horrific crucified corpse. “Drive to the Airport” opens at the 2:57 mark with synth strings, piano and percussive synth woodwinds which serve to slightly lighten the mood as Katrina and her husband travel to the airport. The cue ends with the first emotionally accessible melody of the score, a duet of synth celli and piano with a Chinese flute flourish that reflects a tender moment between Katrina and Matt.

In “Walk to the Governor’s Office” pizzicato strings and synth textures underscore David’s trip to inform the Governor that nude pictures of him were found at the murder scene. At the 0:27 mark we segue into the altered cue “Katrina Gets Matt’s Flowers”, which presents the forlorn pathos of Katrina’s life as she sits naked in a hotel room with flowers left by her husband. The melody played by a plaintive piano with electronic echoes accents playing over synth strings speaks of a terrible loneliness.

“Flight to Pacifica” replays the travel synth string motif introduced in “Drive to the Airport”. At the 0:59 mark we segue into “Walk Into Chinatown” where bouncing synth pizzicato strings play over bass. A sharp blast by shakuhachi flute at 1:29 introduces the incongruous “Chinese Opera Chase”, presented not with an accelerando but instead with a slow, deadened and repeating solitary drum strikes that are eventually joined by a single frenetic Chinese flute. I have never before experienced a chase scene which such a variance of tempo between film imagery and score.

In “Car Flip” Horner again provides drum strikes and piano to raise tension as David realizes his brake lines have been cut. A sharp blast from a dizi Chinese bamboo flute coupled with shattering electronic percussion further raises the tension as David struggles to maintain control the car. As he avoids a school bus a piano crash is heard and the scene shifts to the hospital where David wakes up amidst the diminished sounds of piano percussion. At the 1:56 mark we segue into “Second Trip to Pacifica”, where we again hear the Traveling Theme. The cue closes with a reference to the “Mystic Dream” motif when a neighbor confides that Katrina was a frequent visitor to the murder victim while downtown her prints are lifted from the murder weapon.

Pulsating and percussive voice echoes played over piano are used in the “Matt Gets Turned On” cue which Friedkin excised from the film. Soon a gentle piano version of Katrina’s Theme joins as she seductively oils her legs. As an aroused Matt initiates love-making, synth strings played over the piano melody are added. The prolonged synth strings and light percussion statement is sustained as the scene segues into the DA’s office. Here truly dark piano with eerie voice echoes emerge as images from the burnt tape reveal Katrina/Jade to be the seductress of the victim. The cue ends with stark repeating piano strikes.

In “Stalking Patrice”, a score highlight which Friedkin inexplicably altered, we hear a return of ethnic coloring as erhu, Chinese flute and guzheng harp join in a wondrous interplay that is soon dramatically countered by repeating ominous piano strikes. This is truly beautiful, almost rapturous cue for lovers of Chinese music. Horner provides an array of Chinese instruments which continue their melodic and pastoral statement for the remainder of the cue.

With “Pier Pressure” a slow, determined and steady drum strike with a powerful dark bass underscore serves to make the tension palpable as David’s pursuit of the Mustang slows to a craw on a bayside pier. The music ends abruptly as the Mustang suddenly rams David’s car into the bay. Given that Katrina owns a Mustang, David is ordered to bring her in. At 1:08 minutes a blast by a xun Chinese clay flute, coupled with plaintive synths and pizzicato strings, play as David despairs at the turn of events. The cue segues into the “Governor’s Boy Visits” where the music loses energy and diminishes as the Governor’s aide comes to collect the incriminating photos.

“Home Video #2” is the film’s most potent scene as David plays for Matt and Katrina the damning video that reveals Katrina as Jade the seductress of the murdered Kyle Medford. Horner opens the scene with synth celli, voice echoes and a sustained synth statement to emote the dark realization of Katrina’s double life. A sense of a deep anguish that cannot be assuaged is heard as soft pianos are laid over a dark droning synth, bass and voice echoes emote Katrina’s theme.

In “Piece of the Puzzle” sustained pizzicato strings play over bass, voice echoes and piano strikes as the blood stained Mustang is discovered to be registered to another owner. As we shift scenes dark piano strikes, voice echoes and the “Mystic Motif” play as Katrina and Matt make love. Yet harsh chords rise as Matt struggles to control his anger when Katrina asks if he is turned on by her potential guilt. Moving into the “Katrina in Park House” cue which was altered for the film, piano and synths join in a dark and menacing synergy as Katrina seeks out David’s embrace. Yet powerful and forceful chord strikes over synth droning shatters the moment as David accuses Katrina of murder.

“Hargrove Dies/Final Surveillance” was significantly replaced and altered due to what appears to be an alternative ending. In this final scene where Matt reveals privately to Katrina/Jade that he murdered Medford. Horner employs bass droning, voice echoes, drum beat, and piano strikes with a statement of the “Mystic motif” for a shattering climax.

Horner provides several simply exquisite traditional Chinese musical statements in the film which offer testimony of his mastery of oriental instrumentality and sensibilities. In the lengthy cue “Chinese Parade Sequence” he uses Chinese gongs, delicate finger cymbals, a Shen (mouth organ) and the shrill sound of the Souna trumpet for a sumptuous piece. In “Purple Bamboo” we are treated to some sublime lyrical flute, ehru and harp work, and lastly in “Step By Step Up” ehru, dizi, and ruan (a moon-shaped short-necked lute) immerse us in the mesmerizing beauty of the Orient.

Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” was originally written to emote the mysterious rituals of a pagan dance of death. In the film it is employed fiercely and dramatically to score the murder scene with its graphic and head crushing slaughter of Medford with a hatchet. I believe this choice to be brilliantly conceived and really quite effective. Lastly, the song “The Mystic’s Dream” written and performed by Loreena McKennitt is a haunting and mystical Celtic song. The theme is emblematic of the Katrina’s alter ego Jade, the enchantress who emanates an erotic and seductive power that cannot be resisted. Throughout the film Horner references this song in different guises to affect the scene’s ambiance. When David drives to Matt’s to question Katrina, chanting male voices provide a haunting texture, while when Jade is immersed in a sadomasochistic sex, the song’s more percussive elements allude to sexual arousal and intoxication. Lastly, it finishes in the End Credits with a percussive strike as Horner plays his piano, voice echoes and xun against the song now sung with lyrics.

The missing score was discovered and salvaged from Paramount’s music vaults. The original half inch stereo masters were transferred and mastered by Precision Audiosonics. The sound quality is excellent and I must commend La La Land Records and producer Dan Goldwasser for resurrecting this lost score from James Horner’s canon.

For this lover of Horner, Jade was a most interesting journey, a road less traveled. Horner incorporates and melds many ethnic Chinese instruments with synthetic instruments to produce a musical experience that is impressionistic, minimalist and often discordant. It suffices to say that this effort was quite a departure for Horner, something this long time admirer appreciates. The score is not easily accessible emotionally, so fans who are accustomed to his unabashed lyrical writing will no doubt find themselves perplexed by the listening experience. This is not a score you pull out to enjoy and relax to with a glass of wine. It is instead a dark, twisted and tension-evoking score that is ultimately elusive. The few moments of melody it offers are fleeting and ultimately overpowered by its raw and often brutal impressionist statements. I acknowledge and appreciate the intellectual impetus that drives the score and recommend the CD for Horner completists and those among you who appreciate avant-garde impressionist works.

Rating: ***

Buy the Jade soundtrack from La La Land Records (it is not available via the Movie Music UK store)

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/The Murder Scene/Drive to the Airport (3:59)
  • Walk to the Governor’s Office/Katrina Gets Matt’s Flowers (2:07)
  • Flight to Pacifica/Walk Into Chinatown/Chinese Opera Chase (2:38)
  • Car Flip/Second Trip to Pacifica (2:50)
  • Matt Gets Turned On (4:45)
  • Stalking Patrice (3:59)
  • Pier Pressure/Governor’s Boy Visits (1:40)
  • Home Video 2 (2:57)
  • Piece of the Puzzle/Katrina in Park House (1:58)
  • Hargrove Dies/Final Surveillance (2:10)
  • Chinese Parade Sequence (Traditional) [BONUS] (4:37)
  • Purple Bamboo (Traditional) [BONUS] (3:36)
  • Step By Step Up (Traditional) [BONUS] (2:47)
  • Le Sacre du Printemps (from “Le Sacre du Printemps – Seconde Partie: Le Sacrifice: Action Rituelle des Ancetres”, written by Igor Stravinsky, performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Kent Nagano) (3:35)
  • The Mystic’s Dream (written and performed by Loreena McKennitt) (7:43)

Running Time: 51 minutes 19 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1146 (1995/2010)

Music composed and performed by James Horner. Featured musical soloists Kazu Matsui, Zhi-Ming Han, Karen Han and Qi-Chao Liu. Recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy. Edited by Jim Henrikson and Joe E. Rand. Album produced by Dan Goldwasser, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

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