Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
With 50 album submissions making the initial shortlist for the coveted Grammy Award in the Reggae Category to be announced next February, there is no shortage of tales from satisfied performers.
However, guitarist Dwight Pinkney's sense of accomplishment comes not simply from being in with, strictly numerically, a one in 50 chance of making the final five, but in his difference from the vast majority of nominees in the category - past and present. "It is a surprise because instrumentalists hardly get any attention, any of the upfront glory," Pinkney said.
In terms of the quality of the work, though, he is hardly startled by this acknowledgement of Dwight Pinkney & DP Band Plays The Ventures + Jamaican Style. "I always try to do my work in the studio," Pinkney said, expressing gratitude to distributor TADS Records for the submission.
Pinkney has been in Grammy territory before, but not in an 'upfront' role. He told The Gleaner that he played on the Grammy-winning albums True Love (Toots and the Maytals, 2005), Sly and Robbie and Friends, (1999) and the trio from Bunny Wailer (Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley (1991), Crucial! Roots Classics (1995) and Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary (1997).
The two-disc album (one is a live DVD, in which Pinkney changes outfits to move from a trenchcoat threat to a swagging sombrero wearer, as the mood of the music demands) is a tribute to The Ventures, which Pinkney describes as "the biggest individual group of that era in the world. The only group bigger than them in the 1960s - at least in the West - was the Beatles".
In selecting the songs to record for the project, Pinkney went back to his time in that era. "These were songs that influenced me as a young singer. I was not even playing the guitar yet. I can remember those songs in the early years of being associated with music," he said. That being a time when the airwaves were far less cluttered did not hurt. "In those days the radio selections were not so diverse. You did not have so much material like now. You got to memorise the material based on airplay. It sticks," Pinkney said.
So, he said, "these were the biggest, the most impacting Ventures songs that I was exposed to".
Still, there is a plus sign in the album's title, the James Bond Theme 007, Hawaii Five O Theme and Tequila sharing track-listing space with Beres Hammond's I Feel Good, House of the Rising Sun and his own Dwilight Zone.
Dwight Pinkney & DP Band Plays The Ventures + Jamaican Style was recorded over about six months, Pinkney pointing out that the project has its roots in the live shows that the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA) did at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. "The person who triggered the idea of covering The Ventures was (JAVAA chairman) Frankie Campbell," Pinkney said. "I have to thank JAVAA. That is where everything started from."
In terms of sales, Pinkney said "the record company is satisfied. They know instrumental music takes a longer time to really grab the masses. They are satisfied it is a sustainable endeavour. If they did not get the response they would not send it to the Grammy people".
Pinkney has been on a venture of another kind in recent months, an adventure of a tour with Israel Vibration which took the touring party literally around the world. The four-week trek ran from September 22 to October 22, starting in Europe where they played in France and Belgium, then flew to Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. Then it was back to Europe for "a couple more shows", before heading to New Caledonia, in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia.
Pinkney said the three shows in New Caledonia were "very good" and they got to interact with the descendants of the original inhabitants. "I even planted a tree with one of the chiefs," he said.
They transited through Fiji, flew back to Los Angeles and Miami - where they got stuck because of Hurricane Sandy - then got back to Jamaica "to the good news" of the Grammy inclusion.
Pinkney will not be resting on his guitar. In the making is a vocal album to be released next year, to be distributed in the US by Upstairs Music. It will include some of his more popular vocal tracks, such as Nenge Nenge, Bigger Boss (done with Shirley McLean) and the original How Could I Live (made popular by Dennis Brown). He points out that there are other songs he has done, "but people know them overseas".
And, with the vocal set adding to an instrumental catalogue which includes Jamaican Memories by the Score, For All Occasions, Home Grown Jamaican and Dwight Pinkney Picks Marley Memories, Pinkney is looking to tour as a vocalist and guitarist. It is not an unfamiliar format, as Pinkney points out that already, "in local performances I sing one and two songs".