Bounce and Swing
On stage with Caravan of Thieves
Photo Shervin Lainez
While he’s playing music, Fuzz Sangiovanni is never entirely still.
At different points in a performance, the singer and guitarist in the Bridgeport band Caravan of Thieves might be seen darting between his microphone stand and makeshift drum kit, stomping and clapping around the stage, or employing a human rhythm making technique, known as beat boxing, seldom heard outside of hip-hop.
Even while he strums his guitar, his body seems bound by the rhythm to a ceaseless sway, seemingly testing the limitations of the tall top-hat placed upon his head, in keeping with the flamboyant vintage wardrobe often worn by Fuzz and his bandmates. “He’s always been a crazy ball of energy,” says Carrie Sangiovanni, Fuzz’s wife and musical partner, whose pensive gaze and calm demeanor strumming beside Fuzz adds balance to the duo.
“I think the music itself kind of injects this energy into you because it’s got this fun swinging feel and bouncing rhythms. You just can’t help but be animated,” adds Carrie, who in 2008, along with Fuzz, founded Caravan of Thieves, an ensemble whose signature bounce and swing are rooted in its gypsy jazz origins. The band has since gone on to become a perennial favorite of audiences at the Fairfield Theatre Company, where it has played to sold out houses and made live concert recordings. “I discovered gypsy jazz music right around the time we were starting Deep Banana Blackout in the mid to late ’90s,” says Fuzz, referencing the Fairfield County-based funk jazz band, with which he played for more than two decades, and which gained a large audience locally.
Fuzz began playing guitar at the age of 12, and by 14 was playing in local rock bands in his native Long Island, gigging where he could—including school dances and the occasional rock club—while always listening to a variety of music, beginning with rock and hard rock, and then shifting to psychedelic, classic and progressive rock, jazz fusion, blues, funk, and ultimately studying classical music in college.
Carrie, a native of Westchester County was introduced to a variety of sounds at an early age by her father, who she describes as a huge lover of music of all genres. “I kind of came out singing. I grew up on a lot of folk, classic rock and classical,” Carrie says.
She began experimenting with piano, guitar, singing and songwriting and, prior to meeting Fuzz, was performing her own solo acoustic music.
The pair met in Burlington, Vermont, in 2003 and quickly became romantically involved. “It was a romantic thing that put us together in the first place, and then the music sort of developed as we went on with our relationship,” Fuzz says. “We weren’t planning to make an album.”
Their first gig together was at the Ridgefield Playhouse, opening for longtime member of the Allman Brothers Band Dickey Betts, where they played a combination of covers and originals and discovered their unique chemistry as a duo. For years, they performed “indie folk rock stuff,” in Carrie’s words, until they felt the impulse to evolve aesthetically that led to Caravan’s stellar four albums: Bouquet, Mischief Night, The Funhouse, and Kiss Kiss. Bouquet best encapsulates the band’s gypsy jazz influences, whereas the subsequent albums also incorporate elements of folk, classical, and pop.
“It’s been ever expanding. We wanted the first album to be very true to the concept of what we were doing, so people would get a clear image. But then we didn’t want to get pigeon holed,” Carrie explains.
No matter the format, Fuzz and Carrie love interacting with live audiences. “The show is almost as important, if not more important, than putting material together for an album. It’s creating events for the show and a musical experience,” Fuzz says.