Gaby Moreno

Gaby Moreno

Moreno’s career started moving quickly. She co-wrote the theme song of the television series “Parks and Recreation,” which was nominated for an Emmy in 2010. That same year, she recorded the classic song “Smile,” by Charlie Chaplin, for the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.” And she performed “Toast to Freedom,” a song commemorating the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, first with Kris Kristofferson on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, then in Dublin where she shared the stage with Angelique Kidjo and Bono.

She released her second album, “Illustrated Songs” in 2011, followed by “Postales.” By the time Moreno was named Best New Artist in the 14th annual Latin Grammy Awards of 2013, the “newcomer” had already almost spent half her life in the music business.

Surprisingly, Moreno had to discover the strength of her Latin side. On the Chapman tour, Moreno chose to sing the classic Cuban bolero, “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” and she noticed that people loved it. When she sang it in 2008 at Club Largo, the song also seduced her legendary arranger/musician, Van Dyke Parks, who proposed a collaboration on old Latin gems. That set her on another musical search, this time through records of Mexico’s Trio Los Panchos and Argentina’s Carlos Gardel.

Now, the new album fully reflects the fusion of cultures that have shaped her life. Two songs embody that musical mix. On “La Malagueña,” Moreno is joined by friend and collaborator David Garza, the Austin-based singer-songwriter, who brings a cool guitar vibe to their modern rendition of the Mexican folkloric standard. And for “Hermana Rosetta,” Moreno added original Spanish lyrics to her haunting version of “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” by composer Sam Phillip, who gladly gave permission to translate her deeply spiritual lyrics.

That song expresses hope in the midst of darkness. It’s a theme that also inspires Moreno’s uplifting, hymn-like “Fronteras,” which means borders. In a time of persecution of immigrants, the song extends a hand of camaraderie for those who leave everything behind to pursue their dreams. The bilingual refrain captures the essence of “Ilusión” and the composer’s confident, mature state of mind when she created it: “And I laugh and dance. It’s in my blood. And I dream free. This is where I belong.”

Y río y bailo / Está en mis venas / Y libre sueño
This is where I belong