Caravan is an instrumental group based out of Madison, Wisconsin. They are primarily influenced by the legendary Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. The ensemble also pulls influences from jazz, swing, traditional Latin, Parisian waltzes, and other vintage-jazz sources. Expect a range of tunes from the “Hot Swing” repertoire, originals and standards done in uniquely arranged styles.
The idea for Caravan started in early 2002 when Chris Ruppenthal, the group’s leader and an aspiring jazz guitarist, first heard recordings of Dutch Gypsy Jazz guitarist Jimmy Rosenberg who played in the Reinhardt style. Chris soon turned away from the American Bebop style of jazz guitar to follow in the long shadow of Django and was inspired to seek out fellow Gypsy Swing enthusiasts.
Caravan sprang out of that inspiration as a trio of two guitars, and violin. The trio played a barrage of open mikes and busked at local farmers markets to get their repertoire together. After adding a bassist and clarinetist they began playing coffee houses, clubs, and parties. Soon they were recording, and performing consistently throughout the Midwest.
The group released it’s first official full length CD “Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble” on Hot String Swing Records in 2007. The recording features an expanded band lineup and includes original music, arrangements of Django Reinhardt classics, jazz standards, and Latin tunes. In 2010 the ensemble will release their “Live at The Brink Lounge” CD and a currently untitled studio recording. Caravan’s recordings have been prominently featured as a bed soundtrack on ABC 27’s “Cooking The Casbah.” Their music has also been used in advertisements for RP Pasta and for chocolatier Gail Ambrosius.
Caravan has had substantial experience with live performance in a broad range of settings including concert halls, festivals, night clubs, and corporate/private events. They have had a wide variety of live radio experience including numerous appearances on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Higher Ground with Jonathan Overby.” Highlights of Caravan’s festival and concert experience include performances at Madison’s Overture Center, The Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival, The Isthmus Jazz Festival, Summer Sizzle Festival, and three years in a row at The Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival.
Caravan has become an experienced, seasoned group with a unique sound and a diverse repertoire even within the Gypsy Jazz genre. They now perform in lineups that range from a two guitar duo to a six-piece ensemble including clarinet, violin, and drums. Although the music of Django Reinhardt it still at the core of the band they have learned to take Gypsy Swing music in a broad range of directions.