Until Wednesday, Marta Gomez had been one of Boston's best-kept secrets. Most jazz fans knew about the Colombian singer and Berklee College of Music graduate, but outside of that circle, folks probably read about her and saw her fliers more than they saw her actual performances.
Gomez moved to New York last year to pursue her career full time, but when she was here, fans packed tiny venues such as Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village to catch an artist who appeared to be a rising star.
There's no doubt now that her profile is on the ascent, bolstered by a recent album and her two-set performance at Scullers Wednesday. After performing in smaller rooms in the area, Gomez was gracious about being back in Boston and playing the prominent jazz club. ``It took me a long time to get this gig, but it's worth it,'' she said.
It was worthwhile for the audience, too. Backed by a guitarist, bassist, percussionist, and occasionally a backup singer, Gomez was smart enough to know that her voice is always center stage. The accompaniment was impressive, mostly because it accentuated her silky voice so well.
Like Mercedes Sosa, for whom she opened last year at the Berklee Performance Center, Gomez sings with incredible clarity. Her perfect diction yielded crisp consonants and phrasing so concise that even folks with rudimentary knowledge of Spanish could probably understand the words.
Her light flourishes and demure singing style were well suited for a cover of a likeminded artist: Norah Jones. In one of the few times she sang solely in English, Gomez performed Jones's ``Seven Years,'' and it sounded just as vaporous as the original. It was with her own songs, however, that Gomez's true talents shone. At their core, her songs, such as ``Dejalo Ir,'' are modern folk tales dressed up in romantic jazz arrangements.
At times, her first set came across as a history lesson, and a useful one at that. She spoke fondly of her native country, telling the crowd that she had heard Colombians are the happiest people in the world. That brought giggles and handclaps. She then told the audience that in her research of Latin music, she discovered that the bolero is the only rhythm that exists in every Latin American country, ``perhaps because it's about love.'' Rows of heads nodded appreciatively, and then she sang a bolero to make her point.
Gomez also reminded the audience of her close ties to Boston. Folk star Livingston Taylor, who taught Gomez at Berklee, performed a song and then joined his former student for a playful, bilingual duet. When she cooed on the chorus, ``tan simple como el amanecer,'' he echoed her thoughts in English, ``as welcome as the sun.''