Before he started producing electronic music and signed with Ghostly International, Shigeto (Zachary Saginaw) learned how to play drums while attending high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, during the late 1990s. Mentored by Vincent York, he learned the art of jazz improvisation, and discovered how to play by intuition. He carried this technique over to his solo performances, incorporating live drumming into his electronic compositions. With his 2019 EP Versions, he comes full circle, arranging some of his electronic pieces for a jazz ensemble. He's joined by several close, frequent collaborators associated with Detroit's jazz, ambient, hip-hop, and house scenes, including Marcus Elliot (tenor sax and flute), Ian Fink (keyboards), Brennan Duncan Andes (bass), Dez Andrés (congas), and Christopher Koltay (modular synths). The four songs on Versions contain recognizable elements of earlier Shigeto pieces, but they're restructured and the musicians are given the freedom to add their own personalities to them; none of them share the titles with previously existing Shigeto tracks. Opener "Back to Basics" is a loose, splashy piece based on "In Case You Forgot," a dubby, downtempo electro cut from 2017's The New Monday. Elliot's saxophone playing bears a resemblance to his contribution to the original, but otherwise the retooled piece sounds much more vibrant. The highlight of the EP is "MCW," which updates "Field Day" from 2012's Lineage, truly a hidden gem in the Shigeto discography. Slowing down the track's borderline jittery pace, the new interpretation makes the beat much more danceable, and transfers the song's lovely melody from keyboard to saxophone, making it come alive. Following the drifting, reflective "Divine Family," the ensemble interpret another Lineage track, "Huron River Drive," here revamped as "River Bank Drive." The original was quite jazzy itself, coated with some delay and sprinkled with chiming percussion, and this faithful version doesn't add any new elements, but it gives it more room to breathe. A logical extension of his catalog to date, Versions highlights the organic qualities of Shigeto's music, shining a light on his talents as a composer and arranger as well as a drummer and producer.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson