A decade ago, budding musician Amy Marie Gaston was the victim of a horrific, near-fatal hit-and-run in Michigan. In a story echoing that of Melody Gardot, music played an integral part in her prolonged recovery. She has since emerged as one of the most electrifying multitaskers not only in jazz, soul and world music-having worked with a West African band, an R&B combo, a Celtic quartet, a classical south Indian ensemble, a folk trio and multiple jazz configurations-but beyond, as an actress, broadcaster and founder of the Oakland-based International Cultural Arts and Healing Sciences Institute.
Her adopted name translates as “nectar of God” in various languages, and aptly describes her voice: pure and pretty as first snow yet powerful as a raging storm. Working with the members of Trio Globo-pianist and harmonica player Howard Levy, cellist Eugene Friesen and percussionist Glen Velez-and a worldwide assortment of guests, she shapes a marvelously eclectic, multilingual playlist. The repertoire here extends from silken readings of “Midnight Sun,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” (brilliantly accented by Sheila E.’s bongos and a pizzicato bass solo from Esperanza Spalding), Jobim’s “Dreamer” and a personalized “Better Than Anything” to three original compositions, including the tender “Abre Mi Corazón,” dedicated to Afro-Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca. But the dazzling centerpiece is an inspired union of the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It to the Streets” with the Brazilian anthem “Parana É,” celebrating freedom from slavery.