It's almost a running joke that Charles Hamilton, who directs the acclaimed Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble, gets a layoff notice every couple of years. Given the prodigious talent he and his predecessor Phil Hardymon nurtured, you'd think he would get more respect. But thanks to a strong cadre of parents and supporters, the ensemble continues to spin off exciting new acts. The Altura Brothers Band is a great example of that from the class of 2000-'01. Bassist Tom Altura copped honors as Down Beat magazine's "Best Soloist from a High School," and saxophonist Hitomi Oba drew props as part of the Lincoln Center All Star High School Big Band in NYC. Along with Tom's younger brother Charles (guitar) and Justin Brown (drums), the quartet released a debut CD early this year of largely original compositions and jazz standards fueled with inspired improvisation and youthful rock-funk-groove aesthetic. What's impressive is the personality and voices they've created to express mood and sentiment, or tell melodic tales. While all are now attending college, they'll be home this summer with an appearance scheduled for Saturday, June 7, at Jazz on the Hill at the College of San Mateo (JazzOnTheHill.org). Their concerts are rare and more like reunions, but a great example of next-generation jazz.
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