Called a “…blazingly precise young guitarist,” by the New York Times, Charles Altura has put the international jazz world on notice with his unique blend of effortless lyricism and rich, atmospheric sound. Altura is as comfortable hanging with Chick Corea’s fusion pyrotechnics as he is with Ambrose Akinmusire’s reflective post-bop. While Altura always seems to be on the road—most recently with Terrence Blanchard—we at The Jazz Gallery are proud to present Altura’s debut as a leader in our space this Friday, January 23rd. We met up with Charles this week to talk about how all this travel has affected the music that he will present this weekend.
The Jazz Gallery: Over the past few years, you’ve really established yourself as a first-call sideman with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, and Ambrose Akinmusire, to name a few. How has playing with these artists shaped you as a musician?
Charles Altura: Well, I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of artists that I really like, and I definitely have learned a lot being on the road with them. I’ve learned a lot about how to lead a band, in particular.
TJG: What has it been like working on so many different projects at the same time?
CA: I try to balance doing the right thing for each situation with always wanting to have my own voice, you know, always trying to just play how I feel like playing.
TJG: Are there any pieces of musical knowledge or experiences from 2014 that you will take with you into the new year?
CA: Over the of past few years I’ve been on the road a lot of the time, so I would say I learned the most from that, just from playing every night with people who I love to listen to, and playing their compositions. I think just hanging out with everybody on the road so much and getting close as people—just seeing how that changed the way we played every night was really cool.
TJG: Do you like being on the road so much?
CA: I really like traveling to California, as that’s where I’m from, but I’ve been traveling in Europe mostly. It seems like there is a larger audience for jazz music there.
TJG: Do you feel like all this traveling has affected your compositions and playing?
CA: Definitely. Going to Europe a lot has helped me engage more with classical music. But overall, traveling is just inspiring, especially for my writing.
TJG: A lot of people have been making a big deal about how hard it is bringing your instruments onto flights, so have you run into problems on tour?
CA: Yeah, haha. Sometimes the airlines are not really receptive to that. It’s always like a game getting our instruments on the plane, like trying to hide my guitar. There have definitely been a lot of times where we’ve had to make up stories to try and get my guitar on the airplane.
TJG: At the Jazz Gallery on Friday, January 23rd, you will be playing with Fabian Almazan on piano, Josh Crumbly on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums. How did you select this particular group of people? Have you played with this group before?
CA: I’ve never played with this configuration, but I’ve been on tour a lot with Fabian for the past several months with Terence Blanchard. All of those guys have played a lot with Terence Blanchard, so me and Fabian had talked about doing a show at the Gallery. In Terrence’s band, we’ve been getting into some areas that I want to explore more, so that was kind of the premise for this.
TJG: So what music can we expect to hear—is it your own compositions?
CA: Yeah it’s going to be mostly my tunes. I recorded an album last year but I haven’t put it out yet, so it’s going to be mostly material from that, and then some of Fabian’s music too. That record was recorded a little while ago now but I haven’t had enough time to put it out yet because I’ve been on the road most of the time.
TJG: Is there a particular theme behind your set of music?
CA: I wrote most of the music around the same time a few years ago, but I think a lot of the music shares the concept that I’m kind of trying to blur the lines between the compositions and the improvising. Mostly the idea is just keeping it compositional and melodic.
The Charles Altura Quartet performs at The Jazz Gallery on Friday, January 23rd, 2015. The group features Altura on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano, Joshua Crumbly on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m. $22 general admission ($12 for members). Purchase tickets here.