NOEL POINTER – Captain Jarvis
I wrote the music for this song “Captain Jarvis” in the late 1970s. I was playing in and around the Detroit area with a wonderful rhythm section called Tymepiece (later the name was changed to Nextyme) featuring Ron Scott on bass and the Lynch Brothers Randall and Allen on guitar and drums respectively and myself on keyboards and an occcasional excursion on guitar.
These guys were/are some very funky players. So, inspired by my favorite Jazz Fusion artists and the potential of our band, I wrote the track called Captain Jarvis with influence from Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and others.
This song has a great history – read on. You might be familiar with it because the song became very famous by a great artist, Noel Pointer on United Artists records, produced by major producer Paul Riser.
So here I was, working very seriously with these guys in Tymepiece, learning all kinds of funk and fusion and doing occasional gigs in the “chitlin circuit” as well as a frat party here and there. Somewhere along the way, Tymepiece was “hired” to back up a popular RnB singer named Jimmy Delphs. Jimmy was being produced by RnB producer Duane Freeman, who snagged us to be Jimmy Delphs’ back up band, which got us even more gigs around the circuit. On these shows, we would play a set and then bring out Jimmy Delphs, to big fanfare as he was a powerful singer that would make the ladies swoon and we would sort of fade into the background as soon as he hit the stage.
But when Jimmy wasn’t on stage, we were doing our thing… and part of our thing was Captain Jarvis in a funky, Herbie-ish, Miles-ish tone.
One day producer Duane was on the gig with us and hear us play my song Captain Jarvis, and felt that it could be marketed to his considerable connections in the music biz. So he brought me into his home based studio and had me record a demo of the song. Along the way, Duane suggested the idea of a “C” section, which I wrote on the spot. I give Duane a lot of credit for the insight that the song needed that change even though I wrote the change.
Duane has a vision of the song with a driving more or less “disco” beat, which was a rhythmic step up from my “Miles”-ish flow and definitely different. He overdubbed a kick drum on my demo so we could hear what that would sound like. Probably that helped to sell it to Paul Riser.
Also, to me, Captain Jarvis has always been an instrumental, but Duane wrote lyrics for it and we ended up copyrighting the song with both our names. Duane has the lyrics on file somewhere but I’ve never heard it sung.
With the demo we created in Duane’s basement, Duane eventually was able to get the interest of Motown producer Paul Riser, who ultimately produced and released Captain Jarvis as the centerpiece of a new album he was producing on United Artists records — “Feel It” by Noel Pointer.
Captain Jarvis, which was the first track on the album, reached a #7 spot on the Billboard jazz chart for the year/month of its release and was the #1 most requested song on legendary Detroit jazz radio station WJZZ for the year of 1979. It was a thrill to be able to turn on the radio and hear my tune played over and over again!
“Feel It” by Noel Pointer was released on United Artists with Captain Jarvis as the first track on the LP and the song got a LOT of attention. Captain Jarvis is a “jazz” track, it’s true — but the iconic funk bassline — which was played in the session by Will Lee, no less — really makes the track stand out and causes it to be memorable to most people who hear it.
The United Artists release of Captain Jarvis was also fully instrumental, meaning, to me, it was basically my composition. However – Paul Riser definitely added his elegant Motown touch, with orchestral parts reminiscent of Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” — and in my opinion, equally as iconic. I think that’s one reason why Captain Jarvis by Noel Pointer is a cult hit among funk afficionados to this day.
I personally have never heard the lyrical version – Duane tells me that Stevie Wonder was interested in recording it at one time… but that it was cancelled due to music biz legal gyrations, partially my own fault. I’ve recently spoken with Duane and we kicked around some interest in getting a vocal version produced – so who knows what might happen? Stay tuned 🙂
In the coming days I will provide my own offering of Captain Jarvis, more or less in the way I originally conceived it before any other producers or writers got involved. I still give credit to Duane for instructing me to write the C section (which I did include in my own version) so he is credited as a writer on the tune as well. Enjoy! -Hugh
Learn more at https://funkatology.com