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JT Album Preview: Gruv Kid by Justin Lee Schultz

The debut album by the 13-year-old multi-instrumentalist wunderkind touted by Quincy Jones, Robert Glasper, and Harry Connick Jr. is due out Nov. 13

Justin Lee Schultz
Justin Lee Schultz

He’s 13 and he can play piano, guitar, and bass like a pro. Both Quincy Jones and Harry Connick Jr. have called him “something special,” and Robert Glasper says, “He sounds amazing and he’s only getting better.” Now you can hear for yourself what all the fuss is about: It is JazzTimes‘ honor to premiere three of the 11 tracks from Gruv Kid, the debut album by Justin Lee Schultz, scheduled for a November 13 release on Shanachie.

You may already have seen Schultz on Connick’s TV show Harry, or maybe Little Big Shots or America’s Most Talented Family (his father Julius is a bassist and his 16-year-old sister Jamie-Leigh is a drummer). Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and raised in Minneapolis, Schultz already exhibited great musical potential by age five, according to his parents. Inspired by the music of fellow prodigies Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, the home-schooled teenager says he’s currently practicing five to seven hours a day. “Music brings me joy because I can express myself when I play,” he notes. “I can also get creative when I’m improvising.”

Chart-topping labelmates Pieces of a Dream are the producers of Gruv Kid, which also features appearances by pianist Bob James (on a rendition of his own “Angela”) and guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler (on the Schultz original “Over S.A”). Other notable guests on the album are Najee, who contributes flute to “African Chant”; drummer Harvey Mason, who joins James on “Angela”; keyboardist/guitarist Jeff Lorber (“Better Days,” “Color Blind”); and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. (“Better Days”).