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Claudia Villela/Ricardo Peixoto: Inverse Universe

Arguably the most interesting postmillennial interpreters of Brazilian jazz, vocalist Claudia Villela and guitarist Ricardo Peixoto grew up mere blocks from one another in Rio but didn’t meet until both relocated to San Francisco in the early ’80s. Throughout the past two decades they’ve composed together, performed together, traveled together and served as head cheerleader for one another’s individual careers (spanning Villela’s three scintillating solo albums and Peixoto’s celebrated work with Flora Purim, Bud Shank and Marcos Silva). Only recently, though, did these dynamic playmates agree to pool their considerable talents for a full-length album. Recorded and mixed in Rio, their Inverse Universe (Adventure) is the otherworldly jazz parallel of a ramble through Oz-vividly different and exciting at every turn. The downy “Ima” is soft as twilight waves breaking on Ipanema Beach. “Caravana” comes crashing in with the brashness of Yma Sumac at full tilt. Shades of Astrud Gilberto haunt “Presenca,” a gently celebratory salute to musical influences that is elevated by a soaring Toots Thielemans harmonica solo, as is the hypnotic “Falsa Valsa. “Labisomem,” with its Wild West overtones, progresses from a languorous trot to a feverish gallop. “Falando Sozinho” sizzles with sensual mischievousness, while the vaguely Moroccan title track shapes a “cerulean dream” of the intoxicating extremes of uninhibited passion. In short, it’s impossible not to concur with Michael Brecker’s assessment of Inverse Universe’s beguiling wizardry as “exotically beautiful and moving.”

Originally Published