On her own Imani Uzuri has a formidable voice, one that’s full of the boom and depth of the North Carolina church girl she is.  But something else was on display last Friday night at Joe’s Pub, where Imani held her release party for her latest album, The Gypsy Diaries.  So much of that show was about the magic that happens when she takes her songs and weaves them into a musical, emotional and spiritual tapestry. And did I mention that we all had fun, everyone from the musicians onstage to the standing room-only audience?

See, the thing about Imani and her music is this: As solid as her recording’s are, they are really best experienced live. The albums are meant to be performed.  They only gain power from the spontaneity of the musicians and the palpable give-and-take between Imani and the audience.  The night was full of special moments: Like when  Imani handed the mic and the spotlight over to Dr. Kyra Gaunt for some impromptu vocalese; or when she brought a trio of powerhouse singers onstage: Karma Mayet Johnson, Toshi Reagon and Rozz Nash-Coulon; or when she brought out Fred Cash, who’s one of those musicians who’s probably forgot more about the bass that most cats will ever learn–to add some of his signature low-end to a couple of songs.

In true gypsy fashion, Imani drew her instrumentation from all over the world, eschewing a traditional band setup.  Instead, she employed cello, Japanese shinobue flute, acoustic guitar, world percussions, and sitar and daf. Burnt Sugar’s Greg Tate called the sound “transcendental grindhouse,” but he’s is good for coming up with some out descriptors.

Imani with her full band (l to r): Marika Hughes (cello), Kaoru Watanabe (japanese shinobue flute, western flute), imani uzuri (vocals, tambourine, album Co-Producer), Christian Ver Halen (acoustic guitar, album Co-Producer), Todd Isler (myriad world percussions) and Neel Murgai (sitar and daf), not pictured special guest Fred Cash (electric bass). This is not a Boldaslove.us photo, but one that Imani sent. Shouts to the photographer, whoever you are Nisha Brady.

Karma Mayet Johnson (l) and Toshi Reagon

Christian Ver Halen (l); Imani Uzuri; and Todd Isler

Fred Cash (l) toying with the low end, while Imani sings on

As it was an album release party, The Gypsy Diaries is now available worldwide via iTunes.

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