Scotts Valley's own Claudia Villela is one of the distinctive Brazilian artists in the West Coast jazz world.
City Life

A very Villela summer breezes into Kuumbwa

Brazil native turned longtime Santa Cruz County resident Claudia Villela has a new album, “Cartas Ao Vento (Letters to the Wind),” and she brings it the stage Monday at Kuumbwa Jazz.

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As a reporter covering the arts in Santa Cruz County since roughly the French Revolution, I’ve been privileged to follow the long career of the wonderful singer and songwriter Claudia Villela. A native of Brazil who still visits her friends and family in Rio de Janeiro twice a year, Claudia has made her home in Scotts Valley for decades now. And with such deep roots in both Brazil and California, her music is a finely burnished hybrid and wholly her own.

On Monday, Claudia performs live at Kuumbwa Jazz for the umpteenth time. This time, she’s showcasing her new upcoming album, titled “Cartas Ao Vento (Letters to the Wind),” her first new release since her 2019 live album.

Recorded in Rio, “Cartas” is, said Claudia, not necessarily a traditional Brazilian jazz album. “It’s not a jazz album,” she said. “It’s not a pop album. It’s very much me. It’s a contemplative album.”

Instead of falling back on what she’s done before, she is reaching deeper into her well of creativity, in writing songs, as well as her singing and piano playing.

Claudia grew up in Brazil surrounded by music and, as a young musician, graduated from the Brazilian Conservatory with a degree in music therapy, which explains why she believes so deeply that music is much more than entertainment. It also means she knows a thing or two about the uniquely Brazilian concept of saudade, a kind of inchoate sense of longing that gives Brazilian music that extra poignance.

“This album really has a lot to do with saudade,” she said.

Claudia Villela plays live at Kuumbwa on Monday.