b. James Vincent Dondelinger, 1943, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, for decades the home of contemporary urban blues, Vincent took up the guitar at an early age. Inevitably, he drew inspiration from the blues but also from diverse musical forms including jazz, fusion and salsa. Guitarists whom he emulated were similarly varied, among them B.B. King, Johnny Smith and Chet Atkins. In the mid-60s, he began playing in local clubs and was heard and hired by a very popular Chicago band, the Exceptions. In 1968, in addition to playing club engagements, Vincent developed as a studio musician performing backing tracks for many of the artists signed to Chess Records. Meanwhile, he was also advancing his aspirations as a songwriter and composer. When an opportunity arose in 1969 to join the rock band, H.P. Lovecraft, Vincent moved to San Francisco. There, he also met and worked with Jerry Garcia, and was especially impressed by John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra whose fusion style prompted him in new directions. A recording contract launched him on a solo career but he continued to work with other artists on their records. All of this kept him very busy, so much so that he turned down an offer to join Earth, Wind And Fire. Among the bands and individual artists with whom he worked during this period were Rufus, Azteca, Santana, Etta James and Gregg Allman.
The fact that Vincent has never been content to be pigeonholed, allied to his liking for many musical genres can be charted through the years of his recordings, moving from the relative simplicities of early rock displayed on the 1971 recording Culmination, through funky R&B fusion in the mid-70s, to a late 70s form of the same thing but with lyrics that highlighted Vincent’s intervening religious conversion. The result, 1978’s Waiting For The Rain, with its blend of secular and sacred music, was widely praised and sold well. By the start of the 80s, through his lyrics, Vincent’s music spoke more overtly of his Christianity but, musically, it continued to display a solid jazz and blues feel. It was therefore quite different from the increasingly popular pop rock style of religious music. In the mid-80s, he dropped out of music and became a lumberjack in northern California but eventually returned to the scene after a 12-year absence and with a 17-year gap between albums. That return to the recording studio, Second Wind, is more overtly jazz rock fusion and largely eschews lyrics in favour of powerful instrumentals. Despite, or perhaps because of, his split career, Vincent’s music maintains interest and is frequently rewarding for its early unpretentiousness and its latter-day subtleties.