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Claudia Villela and Ricardo Peixoto bring their magical collaboration to the Stanford Jazz Festival

By Jesse "Chuy" Varela

LAST YEAR at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Brazilian singer Claudia Villela and seven-string guitar wonder Ricardo Peixoto unveiled their Inverse Universe musical project and floored the nightclub stage with an electro-acoustic mesh of beautiful melodic textures and layers that produced a gorgeous impressionistic soundscape of traditional and contemporary ideas.

Evoking the sounds of birds, Villela rendered a mood called "Brasil Com S" that draws from the Ary Barroso classic ("Aquarela do Brasil") but approaches it from the inside out. As shamanistic cries bellowed, Peixoto, who bears stylistic comparison with nylon-string masters like Baden Powell, Laurindo Almeida and Bola Sete, was a perfect complement to the balance of emotion and musicality.

Now Claudia and Ricardo are hitting the road and performing as a duo to garner visibility for their music. They were recently featured on NPR's "Jazz Set" program with Branford Marsalis with a performance they gave at the Santa Fe Jazz Festival in New Mexico last year.

They take off for Brazil next week to solidify a series of concerts and establish distribution for the self-produced album. But the idea of performing in a duo with Peixoto appeals to Villela.

"It's a different kind of freedom. A different way of dealing with things. We play off each other and there's a balance that we search for that is definitely creative. It's on us to keep the music going and you have get deep and search. I sing what I think is true and try to get to a place where I can take the moment and make something of it."

The duo will perform this Friday at Campbell Recital Hall as part of the Stanford Jazz Festival, which shifts into the second week with a presentation this Saturday night by saxophonist Kenny Garrett and a solo piano performance this Sunday by Jon Jang. The festival continues through August 11 and includes highlights like "75 Miles: Commemorating Miles Davis' 75th Birthday‚" with author Quincy Troupe.

Both Peixoto and Villela arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1980s. Based in Santa Cruz, Villela is from Rio de Janeiro and is recognized as one of the top vocal talents in Northern California. She put out a debut release, Asa Verde, in 1994 after paying dues singing with the De Anza College Jazz Singers and winning a scholarship to study with Sheila Jordan at the Manhattan School of Music.

Peixoto actually crossed over onto the smooth jazz charts in the 1980s as part the group Terra Sul, which put out some well recieved albums. He is a talented guitarist who understands the harmony of jazz using a technical guitar prowess rooted in classical music. The intricate harmonic tapestries and melodic counterpoints he creates to embroider Villela's voice are stunning.

Right now this pair of Brazilian transplants are getting their record company going and getting distribution established for Inverse Universe with guest stars like Toots Theilmans onboard. The future looks bright for this gifted duo who have enriched our region with great Brazilian sounds. As Villela says: "I like an aspect of losing myself, of going into the unknown. I'll just take the conditions of this moment and make something of it. It can turn out to be magical."

Claudia Villela & Ricardo Peixoto perform on Friday, July 6, at 8pm at Campbell Recital Hall, Stanford. Tickets are $20. 650.725 ARTS. See complete festival schedule.

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From the July 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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