CD: Jade (1995)

March 7, 2011 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: La-La Land Records / Released: November 30, 2010

Tracks & Album Length: 15 tracks / (51:21)


Special Notes: 20-page colour booklet with hefty liner notes by Dan Goldwasser / Limited to 3000 copies.


Composer: James Horner




Jade isn’t a particularly remarkable score in James Horner’s canon (yes, he has a canon), but in reflection, it’s fair to say his integration of electronics, ethnic instruments, and modern classicism during the nineties was spot-on, whereas other scores by contemporaries such as Alan Silvestri or James Newton Howard (minus the modernism) are very much representative of an era when less is more wasn’t always used.

Jade also features Horner in a strangely quiet mood, although whether the laid back style ultimately suited the film is subjective. William Friedkin’s direction wasn’t his best, and Joe Eszterhas’ script was another variation on a theme called Jagged Edge (1985) – the sexy-dangerous noir about guilt that he previously riffed (with flipped genders) in Basic Instinct (1992).

Besides Friedkin’s much-touted ‘slow motion car chase’ through Chinatown, Jade always felt like the lazy alternate Basic Instinct draft Eszterhas pulled out from the rubbish bin and, with a few name changes and some Asian imagery, sold for another ludicrous sum to a major studio. There was nothing in the film neither director nor composer could fix, although perhaps the somber tone of the music stemmed from the director wanting a score that felt organic, tethering together themes of murder, fear, clashing cultures, and a seaweed-tinted noir style without musical clichés.

Horner has repeated himself even when in a quiet mood. The discrete electronica in Unlawful Entry (1992) is basically Class Action (1991) minus one synthesizer and overt melody. In Jade, he sort of takes the synthetic components from the prior scores – mostly skittering bass, a favourite of Michael Kamen (The Krays) – and adds Asian flute, and some meandering piano notes.

Among the suspense cues, a signature effect is to have airy tones descend without any discernable meter, over which are loose piano fingering on bass keys, with the erratic patterns punctuated by free-form sounds with an echoplexed synth slam – one of the most memorable components of Horner’s Red Heat (1988).

Another cue in Jade (“Stalking Patrice”) recalls Gorky Park (1983), where a gentle classical cue (or in this case, a Chinese folk piece) begins, and Horner overdubs meandering bass keys. The cluster of notes thickens and obliterates the folk piece, and then disappears, letting the original music continue to its natural end.

“Home Video #2” is comprised of a sustained synth chord, and emulated strings and wordless chorus which pulse much in the way voices were similarly edited and treated in Red Heat.

The problem with Horner is too many of his scores contain ideas from prior works, played out almost verbatim, but much in the way Bernard Herrmann did some of his own self-appropriating (oh, he most certainly did), the final product is always beautifully orchestrated and performed.

Perhaps with Horner, it was a case where he liked certain sound combinations, and felt there was no reason to re-use them because a) they worked, b) they were part of his scoring style, or c) as the liner notes seem to infer, Friedkin wanted the sounds that brought Horner to his attention in the first place.

The plus side of Jade is it’s an interesting variation on Horner’s suspense motifs, but as a suite on CD, much like the film, it’s too brief, and lacks certain cohesion. In fairness, Horner gave Friedkin what he wanted, and his score had to function between other folk, classical, and source music (some of which are included after the score suite), but the music from Jade still feels like a patchwork of sounds that sneak in, noodle around, make a few declarations, and dart off into the darkness.

La-La Land’s CD will be of importance to Horner completists, but if you have some of the cited older Horner scores, you already have Jade. The cues (26:46) are full versions, however, and the traditional and classical cues are also complete.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


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