Darryl Yokley is a uniquely gifted artist with a vast array of skills at his disposal. Not only is he an accomplished saxophonist, but he is also recognized as a very talented composer and arranger, writing unforgettable tunes for his own band Sound Reformation as well as arranging music for artists such as Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band, Rhonda Ross, Michigan State University Jazz ensemble, and more. Some people have characterized his playing and writing, as “different”, “unique”, “adventerous”, “special”, or saying that Yokley has “his own thing.” Brent Black describes Yokley playing saying “Yokley is a critics worst nightmare as he side steps standard categorization with ease.” However his music is described, the consensus is that Darryl Yokley is an artist with a concept and vision, and a sound that sounds like no one else.
Yokley began his musical studies in his native state of California, starting at the age of ten on clarinet and moving to saxophone a year later upon entering middle school. He took quickly to the saxophone and the language of music, placing in honors bands for both classical and jazz. Yokley moved to North Carolina in high school and met his future saxophone professor James Houlik at a clinic in Lenoir, NC. It was then in 1997 that Yokley decided to focus solely on classical saxophone and it would be ten years before Yokley truly rededicated himself to jazz. He attended Duquesne University for his undergraduate studies and Michigan State University for graduate studies. He studied with the aforementioned James Houlik and then later concert alto saxophonist Joseph Lulloff in Michigan, practicing constantly and perfecting his skills on the instrument. While Yokley would dabble in jazz studies every once in awhile, a vast majority of his time and focus was towards being a concert soloist.
After graduating Michigan State University, Yokley started playing and touring with Motown legends The Four Tops, The Temptations, and The O Jays. Yokley was enjoying his time playing with these legendary musicians, but had a desire to swing again and he felt he finally had the time to dedicate himself to jazz and uphold the tradition of learning the music in the streets from the older musicians. Yokley moved to Philadelphia in 2007 to complete his “doctoral studies” from mentors such as Tim Warfield, Orrin Evans, Mike Boone, Sid Simmons, Mickey Roker, Edgar Bateman, and Byron Landham playing gigs in Philadelphia and frequenting the jam sessions almost every night. He moved to New York in 2009 and within less than a year he started performing main shows as a leader at a variety of venues and has performed with such artists as Orrin Evans, the Captain Black Big Band, Valery Pomonarev’s Big Band “Our Father who Art Blakey”, Revive the Live Big Band, Jack Walrath, Frank Lacy, Duane Eubanks, Bill McHenry, Nasheet Waits, Gene Jackson, Stacy Dillard, and others. Yokley has performed for world-renowned musician and producer Quincy Jones as well as being the special guest artist for the closing ceremony for the ARPA International Film Festival in Hollywood in 2014. His success as a band leader and sideman has now led him to the international stage performing as a side man and as a special guest artist in Japan performing in Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, and Osaka.
Yokley formed his band Sound Reformation back in 2010 and they released their debut album “The Void” in 2012, which received favorable reviews from such critics as Brent Black and Charles Latimer. Now in 2015 the band’s popularity is growing even more and Yokley is set to go back in the studio to record his second album with Sound Reformation, which will feature Zaccai Curtis on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, Wayne Smith Jr. on drums, and special guest Nasheet Waits on drums for a double drum ensemble which will be accompanied by a small chamber wind ensemble. The band recently premiered a commissioned project for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in January that received much praise by critics and audience members alike, including the Philadelphia City Paper. In addition to leading his own band, Yokley now also plays with singer Rhonda Ross alongside fellow Sound Reformation bandmate Duane Eubanks after making his debut appearance with the band at Madison Square Garden in 2014.
In addition to his performance and composing career Darryl Yokley is an active educator teaching at Westminster Conservatory in Princeton, NJ and the Fort Lee School of Music as well as an active clinician. Darryl, who has taught at Westminster Conservatory for over eight years now founded the Westminster Saxophone Quartet back in 2011 and has mentored young talented saxophonists, helping them develop their skills as young musicians and coaching the quartet to two first place finishes in competition at Carnegie Hall. He has also served on faculty at the Doylestown Community School of the arts as well as adjunct faculty at West Chester University from 2008-2009.