||Move over Ian Anderson, here comes Sean Grace. If Grace has not yet been compared to Anderson, then he should be and he should take it as a great compliment. Grace’s style, inventiveness, and energy are reminiscent of Anderson as a solo artist today as well as when he performed with Jethro Tull years ago. Like a Chinese juggler, Grace attempts to keep several music styles tumbling in the air all at once and frankly, does a brilliant job of it. There are Celtic, New Age, Fusion Jazz, Ambient, Spanish and Native American tracks on his aptly named album, New Frontiers. Grace plays bamboo, cedar, and steel flute, tin whistle, and ocarina; he does vocals, keyboards, and probably washes windows too. Joining him is Lee Grayson on various guitars, Jack Knight on bass, Steve Finklestein, Jimmy Bralower, and Joey Cardello on percussion, and Angela Ford and Bari Koralv on vocals. Occasionally, the ensemble sounds a tad like some of David Arkenstone’s tracks on his classic album In the Wake of the Wind, and once again, the comparison is complimentary. Throughout the album, the music is sometimes gentle, at all times sophisticated, and always exuberant.
The first cut also dubbed New Frontiers (subtitled: the journey) is a musical alchemists’ crossover dream. Grace, wizard that he is, mixes genres of the Celtic flute with jazz rhythms to produce a driving, energetic song that bespeaks of movement. Grab a map, a Snicker’s bar and a bottle of water. The music picks you up and takes you across the salty ocean, through the verdant forests and up over rugged mountains. The game is afoot!
The Native American cedar flute is the lead instrument on the cut Lark Spur (subtitled: the seduction). The tone and the beat are like something out of the jazzy sixties. The bass line is strong, the percussion energetic and there are jingly bell sounds all around you. The background vocals are lighthearted and almost playful. This is the tune that the Pied Piper of Hamlin Towne would have played if he had any creativity and could keep a beat. You really must follow the piper.
The Hunt (subtitled: the chase) – mixes New Age and contemporary jazz and is another song that drives forward like an arrow from the bow, straight, sure and on target. Extremely upbeat with an ornate keyboard track and enigmatic vocals, the music chases you around in your own mind and perhaps you find you are pursuing yourself. Read that one again.
Grace and ensemble slow down a bit, take a collective breath and lull you with a sweet, gentle tune called Winter Dreams (subtitled: the trance). This tune is a fairy fantasy where the characters pirouette in the falling snow, plunge down laughing to make snow angels, and finally, race back to the roaring fire for warmth and companionship (And maybe a cup of hot cocoa!).
Sean Grace is from the old school, Julliard to be exact. He won most awards that had to do with the virtuosity of the flute before puberty; he performed at Carnegie Hall at twelve, and like many artists, formed his own successful rock band in high school. At the end of high school, Sean had won more young artists’ awards and scholarships as well as numerous Celtic music competitions. Since 1993, Grace has had two CD releases, Storm Rising and his very successful Celtic Voyage. His Celtic-rock meets instrumental jazz formula once again, to me, puts him in his own class of musical wizardry.