Now, more than a decade [after his touring career began], Matisyahu has formed a band that truly gives itself over to the music on par with his lyrical desire to connect to something beyond the self. The band features original Stubbs guitarist and longtime staple of the downtown New York improv scene Aaron Dugan, Dub Trio bassist and long-time Matisyahu collaborator Stu Brooks, percussionist and Cyro Baptista go-to-drummer Tim Keiper, and Virtuoso keyboardist Big Yuki . Combined, the music and lyrics transcend their parts. At its most basic moments the music now feels alive; an entity unto itself, being born in the moment and evolving each night. No two performances of a song are alike. At its most exultant moments the music becomes full-band improvisation. Lyrics are rearranged on the spot to serve the energy of the jam, no instrumentalist is playing simply to demonstrate individual skill, and Keiper’s percussive mastery finds the subtle cracks within Matisyahu’s beat boxing to propel the music beyond anything it’s ever achieved previously.
What makes this music so engaging and unmatched, is that Matisyahu; a vocalist with no other instrument at his disposal, is an integral creative part in the improvisation. Dugan and Marscher work well beyond the constraints of the “solo” constantly working to modulate the improvisation, while Brook’s pocket is so deep and harmonically smart, that regardless of how far the melodic elements of a jam may get pushed, it’s impossible not to feel rooted to the core of any tune performed. Matisyahu allows his band to breathe within each tune, finding his place with a wordless melody that serves to enhance the harmonic elements of an improvisation, developing the rhythmic ideas with his beat boxing, or crowning a jam with a full-on lyrical call-to-the-heavens and the great unknown. It’s that cathartic moment as a jam summits and the audience lets out its release that tells the performers we are all in it together. During the most recent Fall 2015 tour, video and audio posts of these moments inspired a steady stream of comments and inquiries asking, “What album is this song on?” It’s not on any album. It is the song of that moment, and that moment only.
These moments have the ability to connect the many different kinds of Matisyahu fans. The fan going through a hard time, looking to connect to lyrics about faith and searching. The fan looking for that unmatched connection inherent in the risk-reward of improvisational music. The fan who finds pride or representation in some of the ancient sources of Matisyahu’s inspiration. All of these fans share the space together with Matisyahu who is now both a player and a playee, bound to his bandmates’ creation in song and in spirit. It’s been more than a decade for Matisyahu the singer; this is the time of Matisyahu the band.