Jake Peters is about to earn some respect for the humble ukulele.
The Didsbury musician will treat the ukulele is if it was a Spanish-style guitar when he opens for Ian Tyson on Tuesday, May 3, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre. In other words, his performance will be more along the virtuosic lines of Leona Boyd or Jesse Cook than a certain somebody who once tip-toed through the tulips.
(“Don’t mention Tiny Tim,” said Peters, who doesn’t like the lingering association in some people’s minds of the ukulele as a novelty instrument.)
Peters is an award-winning guitar and banjo player and luthier who takes the ukulele as seriously as the other string instruments he plays and builds. These include the Middle Eastern oud, sas, dombra, and barabat.
The four-string uke is his current favourite because “you can play the melody and the harmony at the same time,” he explained, before plinking out a sprightly few bars over the telephone to demonstrate.
Peters enjoys all genres of music, including bluegrass, blues, Celtic, Spanish, classical, folk and gospel. He suggests jazz and world music, including Hawaiian and flamenco, will be on his play list in Red Deer. “I’ll be doing things that are a little obscure, like a waltz, which isn’t commonly played…”
The musician, who’s worked with Cindy Church, Dick Damron, Pam Tillis, Lisa Brokop, Randy Travis, Randy Bachman and other artists, was born in Alberta, but raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where his father worked at a steel plant.
Musical talent ran through his large Italian family. His mother, uncle and cousins played a variety of instruments, including mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass, and accordion.
“I grew up with string instruments,” said Peters, who was taught to play by his mom.
More recent influences are Oscar Lopez and Pavlo (Simtikidis), a Toronto guitarist who mixes the folkloric styles Greek and Latin music with pop sensibilities. After meeting Pavlo, a twice-Juno nominated gold-record selling guitarist, at the Bearberry Community Centre, Peters was commissioned to make a unique prototype guitar for him.
Having moved back to Alberta in 1984 because “I wanted to see where I was born,” the music teacher and performer became recognized as a “musician’s musician” in this province. Peters has been invited to perform at various festivals and events, including the former Central Music Festival and Canada Day at Bower Ponds.
He looks forward to playing for a Red Deer audience once again — this time with the esteemed Tyson.
Tickets to their 7:30 p.m. concert are $62 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.