If one were to name one Savannah-based musical act that most exemplifies this time-honored, eclectic and adventurous city, they’d be hard to find a more appropriate ambassador than Velvet Caravan.
This unorthodox, high-energy, acoustic-based quintet of guitar, violin, standup bass, percussion and keyboards (including accordion) has, over the past few years, emerged as one of the shining lights of Savannah’s burgeoning music scene. In that time, the band has grown from a somewhat informal instrumental combo which routinely drew enthusiastic and loyal followers at raucous restaurant and bar gigs to a respected and admired touring act that’s as comfortable in an attentive listening room or large concert hall as they are in a crowded nightclub.
“Gypsy Jazz is the root of our sound and style, but we are far from being a traditional band in that genre,” explains the group’s co-founder, classically trained Venezuelan-born violinist Ricardo Ochoa.
“We try to describe ourselves as a Gypsy Swing Band or Gypsy-Latin-Swing Band, or Gypsy-Tonk-Latin-Swing Band, or Southern-Gypsy-Tonk-Latin-Swing Band, or simply ‘European Redneck Music with a Classical Influence,’” he says with a chuckle. That laughter openly acknowledges the challenging nature of easily categorizing a group with such a wide and non-traditional array of musical and cultural influences.
“None of these styles are intentional,” adds Ochoa. “They’re simply a reflection of who we are individually.”
At present, the band is hard at work on writing and arranging original material for their second album, which they plan to record sometime in 2018. They are also actively booking all manner of engagements far from their home-base of Savannah, Ga. – from nightclub residencies to listening room one-nighters to featured guest appearances with small orchestras and full-sized philharmonic symphonies. The band also works with Brooklyn, NY based guitarist, Tim Clement, and San Francisco, CA based guitarist, Jimmy Grant.
“Our ability to adapt to pretty much any situation while staying completely professional sets us apart from the others,” says Dunn. “Our ultimate goal is to be a creative, successful and ever-evolving band that makes great music and puts on one hell of a show.”