Jacob Doyelle Yates doesn’t tend to follow trends as he pursues his own path in the world of music.
“My main instrument is tuba and ukulele,” said Yates, 22, a member of the Paul G. Blazer High School class of 2011, explaining he also plays piano, guitar, bass and practically any brass instrument. The tuba, however, was the instrument that started it all, he says, noting he became fascinated with the ukulele after hearing Internet sensation Jake Shimabukuro perform “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
"I play a lot of his (Shimabukuro’s) stuff and my own now, using different techniques,” he said on the morning after one of his somewhat-rare public performances at The Lamp Post Café, which he concluded with a bouncy bit of improvised blues.
A seasoned performer with groups including the Greater Huntington Symphony and the Greater Huntington Brass Band, as well as his years with bands at Blazer, Yates said his solo concerts have so far been limited to a few performances at the former TSHD Architects office during Ashland’s First Friday Art Walk and recent appearances at The Lamp Post Café. With a chuckle, Yates acknowledges he can play many popular music and country songs that might allow him more opportunities to play, but says that part of the music world is not what he is after.
“I enjoy playing ... rock, jazz and classical — and some blues. I try to mix everything together,” he said, discussing his distinctly non-Hawaiian approach to the traditional Polynesian stringed instrument.
Weaving his own arrangements and compositions in with those of his favorite artists, Yates said he enjoys presenting unexpected aspects of the tiny instrument’s soprano voicing.
“I feel my style kind of fits me,” he said. “People don’t think about the ukulele in that light.”
His first ukulele was a gift from his grandfather, Lewis Dunn, Yates said.
“It was from the 1930s. No name inside or out — just pure wood and nylon strings,” Yates said, adding Dunn actually gave him two of the vintage instruments, although only one had tuning pegs and strings. With great appreciation for the history of his grandfather’s instruments, Yates said he has since adopted a modern acoustic/electric ukulele he purchased online. He advises anyone interested in taking up the ukulele to do his or her own research by listening to the abundance of contemporary musicians who have posted performance videos.
“Take the music you like and try to make it into ukulele music,” he said.
When not playing music or working at his family’s business, Premier Duty Gear on 16th Street, Yates said he spends considerable time writing computer programming, composing songs for marching bands and brass bands or compulsively researching whatever happens to be on his mind.
“I research everything,” he said, shaking his head slightly as he explained his interests are as varied as medical science and fine art. “My gears are always turning — nonstop.”
For more information or to book an appearance by Yates, email him at email@example.com.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.