Smooth Jazz Magazine

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J3 Opus1 2022

Opus 1
By: Mina Kim


When I first heard the music of J3 I immediately thought I was hearing the soulful collaboration of seasoned musicians, well learned and rehearsed, and with the kind of familiarity that comes from years of touring, and studio sessions, and innumerable late night conversations. What I discovered was, in fact, something entirely different. What I found were three beautiful old souls embodied in youthful exuberance and creativity, with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for Jazz. J3 is actually Justin Lee Schultz, Jaden Baker and Jamie Leigh Schultz ages 15, 16 and 18 respectively.
The more I learned about J3 the more enthralled I became. I visited with them via Zoom to find out more. They are multi-instrumentalists and all began playing music at age 5. However, when you give their latest release, Opus 1, a listen you will not only hear years of practice but also unmatched, extraordinary talent in each of them. Of their influences, not surprisingly, consist of Chick Corea, Bob James, Sheila E, and Derrick Hodge, to name a few. These influences can be heard in one of their more poignant ballads, Justice. Both sporting a mischievous grin, Justin and Jaden describe the song as having a storytelling quality with a film score ending (as is evident in Jaden’s masterful skills as a composer) and that it is up to the listener to decide whether or not justice was served.

What also is afforded their youth is an eagerness to explore the genre of Jazz, both past and present and are unafraid to take chances on the classics, bringing flair and innovation to overlooked standards, reinventing them for a modern world while still respecting the original character of Jazz. Their work is so concise the listener can visualize each member at their instrument. This is especially evident with Jamie Leigh at the drums. So precise in her execution she lays the foundation for what embodies J3.

What I found so refreshing about these remarkable young people is their determination of complete inclusivity in each other. This is widely evident throughout the 11 track album and my consistent take away from start to finish is how anyone so young has such a broad reaching musical intuition. This type of talent cannot be taught but is an inherent part of their unique humanity. Be you a traditionalist, as in Got A Match and My Playground, or a modern enthusiast, as heard in the crossover marriage of Hip Hop and Jazz in Vibe Cleanse, you, the listener will be captivated by converging styles of every form of Jazz artfully produced in this remarkable and brilliant collection.