Originally from Berkeley, CA, Charles Altura is a guitarist and composer. He now lives in Brooklyn and is fond of cats, keeping two of his own. Noted for his “quicksilver technique” by the New York Times, he is a consistent face among many groups and has collaborated with Chick Corea, Ambrose Akinmusire, Justin Brown, Terence Blanchard, Stanley Clarke, Tigran Hamasyan and Linda Oh among others.
With an album in the works, Altura returns to the Gallery this Saturday to further explore his compositions with long time bay area friends Akinmusire and Brown who he’s known since high school, in addition to friends and collaborators Fabian Almazan and Matt Brewer who he plays with regularly.
We sat down with him this week in Brooklyn to learn a bit more about his musical journey thus far:
The Jazz Gallery: You’re looking to put out your first record as a leader soon?
Charles Altura: Yeah we recorded a little while ago. Then I did another session with Justin and Harish Raghavan as a trio. The record includes Ambrose, Justin, Harish and Taylor Eigsti. This performance will feature material from the album and a few new ideas.
TJG: The timbral roles in your group mirror E-Collective. Is the confluence of piano, guitar and trumpet important to you?
CA: Yes. For some reason, that instrumentation seems to have clicked. I’ve listened to a lot of trumpet players. Ambrose and I played together quite a bit growing up too, so the combination of trumpet and guitar is very natural to me.
TJG: Can you discuss your musical upbringing?
CA: I started on piano, I was about nine. Then I worked on classical piano and started playing guitar. I taught myself guitar from piano when I was about 13 and got into jazz soon after that. My older brother is a guitarist. He introduced me to a lot of music, a lot of jazz music. I always heard him walking around playing these solos. I liked the idea that you could walk around and practice anywhere. I like how it crosses genres easily. You can go wherever you want with guitar. It’s a chordal instrument but you can also be lyrical like a singer. When I got into jazz, the guitar provided a way to be like a horn player or a piano player.
I kept the piano going and at certain points I even quit guitar for a while and just played piano. Two or three times in high school. I would always end up back on guitar because I felt like I could somehow do more. Most of my composition happens at the piano, and I still play classical piano.
TJG: Were your parents musical? What was playing in the house?
CA: Yeah, my mom is musical, she plays piano and accordion. My dad was a big music fan. He got me into classical music and my mom has a very good ear. She taught me how to learn things by ear. There was a lot of classical music in the house—Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin. I was also into rock music, like Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, so I always had that going too.