Made from limes, sugar and a distilled, fermented sugarcane juice called cachaa, Brazil's national cocktail, the caprihina, is deceptively simple. It squeezes a ton of flavor out of just three ingredients, much like a song of the same name.
"Caprihina," a song from Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble's forthcoming live album An Evening at the Brink Lounge, derives a rich Latin zest from acoustic guitar, acoustic bass and clarinet. Plus, it does it quite well considering the group's predilection for gypsy swing, the kind that Django Reinhardt popularized in Paris in the 1930s and '40s.
Guitarist Chris Ruppenthal, the ensemble's founder, says "Caprihina" started out as a swing tune, like many of Caravan G.S.E.'s other compositions. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: When he introduced it to the band, it just didn't sound right.
"When I changed it to a more Latin style, it came alive," he says. "Django's music is at the heart of Caravan G.S.E., but we like to build on it rather than recreate it. We like to incorporate a lot of Latin music and tunes from outside the normal repertoire of the genre."
As one guitar sets the mood with breezy rhythms and a swingin' beat, another uses melody to tell a story about sunny days and romantic nights somewhere between Rio and So Paulo. It's more Brazilian bossa nova than French jazz club. However, instead of having Astrud Gilberto's voice lilt into the song after a few bars, the ensemble introduces the sultry clarinet of Greg Smith, who local world-music fans may recognize from the Yid Vicious Klezmer Ensemble and Reptile Palace Orchestra.
Though this style of bossa nova sometimes falls into the easy listening bin at the CD store, it's anything but boring. It's jazzy and exotic enough that Django himself would probably enjoy it. That's a good thing, considering that the night of the release party for An Evening at the Brink Lounge falls on what would have been his 100th birthday. While the ensemble will honor the jazz great with a collection of 15 songs, including a few of his tunes, they'll be toasting his legacy with a live version of "Caprihina" and perhaps a few drinkable caprihinas as well.
An MP3 of "Caprihina" is available in the related files section at right. More music by Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble is available on its MySpace page. The band will perform selections from An Evening at the Brink Lounge in a release party at -- you guessed it -- the Brink Lounge on Saturday, January 23 in celebration of Django's birthday.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.