Over the last couple of years we’ve ben tracking the progress of young multi-instrumentalist JUSTIN LEE SCHULTZ. Hailed as a child prodigy and now based in Los Angeles, he’s worked with some big names  and his 2020 album ‘Gruv Kid’ won him plenty of acclaim  and since then his career has moved onwards and upwards.

His latest project is a trio album – the trio being himself (of course), his sister Jamie Leigh Schultz (a drummer who worked with him on ‘Gruv Kid’) and another multi-instrumentalist Jaden Baker whose CV includes work with gospel stars Fred Hammond and Israel Houghton. Their collective age by the way is just 49! They call themselves “J3” – all the Js, I’m  guessing, and their album is called ‘Opus 1’.

This ‘Opus’ is an 11 tracker and the album is mainly a set of originals. Amongst the non-originals is a cover of Chick Corea’s ‘Got A Match’ which should give you a flavour of the album’s content. It’s a tricky, jazzy meander  and the J3 team acquit themselves with honour. The odd thing, of course, is that the three players are so young (remember the oldest is only 18!); so, maybe, it’s rather surprising to discover their love for the music of Corea – but that’s the measure of where they’re coming from!

The other focus covers are “tributes” (if that’s the right word) to Michael Jackson. The album opens with a version of his ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ and ends with a medley of ’Remember the Time’, ‘Love Never Felt So Good’, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and  P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)’. I’m not entirely sure of the current status of Jackson’s reputation. But my concern here is that three young players seem in thrall of him… odd – given what we’ve learned about the one time  “king of pop”.

However, let’s judge J3 on their music. On ‘Opus 1’ they turn in a set of remarkable mature performances and where Justin’s debut ‘Gruv Kid’ was best described as his take on ”smooth” jazz – ‘Opus 1’ is a lot tougher and much more ambitious – full of complex jazz licks, jazz-funk and urban grooves all allowing the team to show off their prowess – Justin especially, who stars on piano, guitar, bass guitar and talk box.

J3 ‘Opus 1’ released on Shanachie April 15th.