Following films ranging from M*A*S*H (1970) and A Wedding (1978) to Short Cuts (1993), Prêt-à-Porter (1994), The Company, charting life in a ballet company, is the latest Robert Altman ensemble piece. Consisting of 12 tracks, including two selections from the score by Van Dyke Parks, the album is something of an oddity. For a ballet film there is no authentic ballet music; even the Saint-Saëns' selection is an arrangement made for dance. The album does however contain four versions of Rogers and Hart's 'My Funny Valentine', in settings from Elvis Costello to The Kronos Quartet. Essentially the standard is the film's theme, and hearing four versions is perhaps comparable to hearing four arrangements of a specifically composed film theme woven through a soundtrack and score. The neo-classical setting for piano and cello performed by Marvin Laird and Clay Ruede journeys far from the original and is quietly evocative – the cello forming a link with the interpretation by The Kronos Quartet and the two pieces performed by superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
On a similar note Yo-Yo Ma's World Music affinities might lead one to some sort of conceptual link with 'Ray One From Creative Force' performed by John Zeretzke and MB Gordy III and Rabekin' performed by Light Rain. Julee Cruise meanwhile settles for noting 'The World Spins'; a haunting slow motion ballad long familiar to fans of director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti.
The first of the score cues, 'Curtain Calls' is a relaxed late night jazz number in the spirit of Henry Mancini cocktail hour cool yet boasting a luxuriant orchestration in the spirit of 1960's Michael Legrand. 'Blue Snake & Zebras' is more exotically colourful though equally melodic and beguiling. A shame the two pieces total just over six minutes playing time, as more inventive music like this would have made for a more satisfying disc.
Overall a relaxed and sophisticated anthology which may find itself at home at dinner parties, though as with such events some of those guests present sit more easily in the given company than do others.