Band of the Day

2012.08.07

Caravan of Thieves

Gypsy Jazz revivalists breathe fun, playful theatrics and 21st century style into the music
I am merely flesh and bone, driven by a mind of stone The very thing which governs me will lead me to my doom.
lyrics from I Can’t Behave

Caravan of Thieves is the spawn of married couple Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, who initially began performing as a duo. The bohemian couple grew in 2008 to include violinist Ben Dean and bassist Brian Anderson. In 2009 the band released their debut album, Bouquet, and have since gone on to tour with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Glen Campbell, The Decemberists, Keb Mo, Tom Tom Club and Iron and Wine, among others. Their next release, 2010’s Mischief Night, was recorded live at a sold out show in Fairfield, CT, in attempts to capture the energy of the band’s on-stage antics. 2012’s The Funhouse brought the gang to the sought after residential recording studios—Tarquin Studio (The National, Jonsi, Interpol)—to expand on their indefinable gypsy-jazz-swing-acoustic-pop sound.

Since it sprang into existence in 1930s France, gypsy jazz has fascinated and kept the romantically dripping candle burning, even if it hasn't been typical dance club fair for over a half century. Django Reinhardt, the genre's originator remains its most famous figure. A legendary guitarist, Reinhardt combined the solo virtuosity of flamenco with swing rhythms and his own whimsical style. His mark remains, and nearly 60 years after his death, groups like Caravan of Thieves play in a contemporary style that reflects the blueprint he helped to innovate.

Started by the married couple Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, Caravan of Thieves is a four-piece that's equally at home with pristine pop melodies and harmonies, lively rhythms and jazz flair. In their excellent 2012 release The Funhouse. Caravan of Thieves move effortlessly between darkly dramatic, more subdued moods and lively fun, sometimes even in the same song. “I Can't Behave” begins as delicate chamber folk with sweeping violin and gently picked guitar before bursting into swinging gypsy jazz with some seriously infectious vocal hooks. “Eat You” is energetic from start to finish. With its forceful rhythm guitar and barroom-stomping violin, it feels like it could have been recorded in 1932 just as easily as 2012. Vocalists Fuzz and Carrie have an easy rapport that lends the track a fun-loving levity before busting into a true Reinhardt-inspired guitar solo thick with mystery.

The band does a great job of cultivating ambiance throughout the album. From the jaunty rhythm guitar to the fleet-footed violin, the music transports you to small, dimly lit European clubs with lots of red wine, twirling and big grins. The Sangiovanni's voices do pull you into the 21st century, with phrasing that feels closer to Nickelcreek or the Decemberists than mid-century Gypsy jazz, but those modern touches provide a nice foil to the faithful revivalism of their arrangements and instrumentation.

If the test of groups that set out to revive a certain strain of overlooked music from decades past is to do it respectfully, skillfully and lovingly, Caravan of Thieves succeeds. The band breathes the same sense of joy and fun into the music that you imagine it was supposed to have all along.