Boiling Point: Music of Kenji Bunch

ALIAS Chamber Ensemble

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Boiling Point: Music of Kenji Bunch Review

by Blair Sanderson

The eclectic music of Kenji Bunch is unapologetically drawn from a variety of traditions, and the composer is quite comfortable identifying his roots in American folk song, Appalachian fiddling, Texas swing, jazz, rock, and many more styles besides. Bunch's openness about the music that fires his imagination makes Boiling Point easier to appreciate on its own terms, and any complaint that this CD is derivative is pointless. It's quite difficult to compose in a mix of idioms unless there is a genuine love for the sources, and Bunch obviously relishes the vernacular styles that he has reshaped in his contemporary chamber works. The ALIAS Chamber Ensemble presents five of Bunch's highly accessible and engaging pieces on this 2012 Delos release, and the album has a feeling of unity that similar ad hoc collections lack, in so far as all the pieces have a common modal flexibility in their melodies and harmonies, and the moods change quite smoothly between sweet reveries and rollicking dances. Bunch is a violist, and much of his music is oriented to strings, so they are present throughout the program, though the additional piano, clarinet, horn, harp, bass, and drums bring a refreshing assortment of colors to the predominant string tone. The sound is well-balanced and quite consistent across the tracks, so no sudden adjustments of volume are necessary.

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