The Many Versions of Shigeto

Chris Daly goes in on the new EP from the Ghostly International stalwart.
By    September 20, 2019

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In a past life, Chris Daly played tuba in marching band.

While jazz and beat music might not seem the most likely of relatives upon first glance, trust me, they’re practically twins.  Not only do some of the best beats utilize jazz records for sampling, but both genres share an affinity for exploration wherever the groove may take them.  I suppose it’s only natural then, that some of today’s best and brightest beat smiths also happen to be some pretty damn fine jazz musicians, as well.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s let Michigan’s Shigeto and his new album, Versions, work as our lodestone then.
Before he was one of Ghostly International’s finest signings, a young Zachary Saginaw and his fellow band geeks at Ann Arbor Community High School often would jam together with Vincent York, the school’s artist-in-residence.  By Shigeto’s own reckoning, ” “(York) showed me how to play based on feeling and ear. I wouldn’t be here without him.”  To demonstrate that love and bring things full circle, he’s dropping Versions, an instrumental jazz reinterpretation of some of his previous tracks.
Utilizing a band of his closest co-conspirators, Shigeto and his mates (Marcus Elliot on tenor saxophone and flute, Ian Fink on keys, Brennan Duncan Andes on bass, Dez Andrés on congas, and Christopher Koltay on modular synths and analog delay), run through a tight set that proves his mission: “I wanted to show how different these songs can be when you take away the computer and make it a band.”
Running lean and mean at under 30 minutes, the four-track EP effectively does what so many other attempts at “let’s remake our catalog” cannot.  Shigeto and crew take original structures, but build them into so much more.  Fans of The New Monday’s “In Case You Forgot” likely will recognize the similar melody on “Back to Basics,” but hearing Saginaw on real, live drums is a treat unto itself (and all the more reason to see him live, where this is not such an uncommon occurrence).  “MCW” reworks Lineage‘s “Field Day,” while “Divine Family,” a tasty, downtempo jam that rides the sax to the end and back, is the only brand new track here, and yet it fits perfectly.  The album closes with “River Bank Drive,” another Lineage reworking, this time of “Huron River Drive.”

You’ve been told time and again to listen to more jazz, but for whatever reason, you haven’t found your perfect entry point yet, you being more of a hip-hop, beat-oriented type of cat.  As if they were worth a damn in the first place, your excuses now are officially null and void.  Shigeto and his jazz ensemble are here to show you the light.

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