This year is the 40 year anniversary of the release of the ground-breaking song, “Captain Jarvis” on United Artists Records produced by Paul Riser on artist Noel Pointer.
The release reached #7 on the Billboard Jazz charts and was one of the most requested songs at the beloved, but now-defunct Detroit radio station, WJZZ.
The song was “discovered” by Riser and local producer Duane Freeman when Hugh was touring and gigging around Detroit with the band Tymepiece. Tymepiece was a local (southeast Michigan) band which featured Hugh Hitchcock on piano and synthesizers with virtuoso bassist Ronald Scott and veteran funk musicians Randall and Allen Lynch on guitar and drums respectively.
Tymepiece performed a lot of funk material along the lines of Brick, Heatwave and Larry Graham, and also ventured into the Funk-Jazz realm with some Herbie Hancock tunes. They were known to do a rousing rendition of songs like “Hang Up Your Hangups” and Chameleon by Herbie, as well as songs by The Jazz Crusaders and The Brothers Johnson.
Mixed in with the cover tunes, Tymepiece would also perform original works from time to time. Once of them was Captain Jarvis by Hugh Hitchcock.
Freeman heard the song as played by Tymepiece live on a gig and decided to bring Hugh into his home studio and record a demo. At that time, Freeman suggested Hugh write a “C” section, which became a prominent “goodie” with which listeners are rewarded. Duane also had the idea to add a “disco” type kick drum beat to the demo which wasn’t originally a part of the song, but which may well have been a helping factor in getting the song sold.
This demo was then marketed to Riser, who heard the potential and decided the use Captain Jarvis for the opening number on a new album he was producing on electric violinist Noel Pointer.
At the time, Noel was looking for a way to break out of the clique-ey New York Jazz scene and do something with a little more cross-over to the RnB and Soul communities. Captain Jarvis turned out to be the perfect crossover track to accomplish that.
The album ended up being entitled “Feel It” and the song name “Captain Jarvis” was retained and the music used for first song on the record, to great effect.
Feel It as an entire work did not gain much of a niche, but the song Captain Jarvis has become a cult favorite. You can find it all over Youtube.
The funny thing is that the original vision for the song has never been heard before — until now! Paul Riser produced the song very nicely, but he and Duane, in the process of preparing the song for commercial release, slightly changed the genre of the song.
So Captain Jarvis started out being an instrumental jazz piece in the mood of a Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock electric jazz funk tune — and was transformed by Freeman and Riser into more of a Motown or Soul Jazz type of work.
Listen closely to that version — you can find more about it and listen here — and you’ll hear the Soul influence – complete with “Shaft” like flutes and french horn descant parts. They are truly beautiful – but they are not how the song was originally envisioned.
Finally… Hugh has put out his own version of his classic track “Captain Jarvis” and you can hear it below in the Spotify player.
The new version features Hugh Hitchcock on bass, piano, organ, synthesizers and guitar with Miami phenomenon Joe Collado on Latin percussion.
If you like the song, I encourage you to support the artist(s) by getting your own download. Here are the links for Captain Jarvis:
Thanks for reading 🙂