Saxophonist Don Dietrich continues to push his instrument beyond limits | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Saxophonist Don Dietrich continues to push his instrument beyond limits


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Many of the best sounds in music come from pushing a piece of equipment past its limits. Obvious examples include what Jimi Hendrix created with his electric guitar and amplifier and what King Tubby coaxed from a mixing board. Just as mind-blowing are the sonorities that Don Dietrich and Jim Sauter, Dietrich’s partner in the long-running ensemble Borbetomagus (which also includes guitarist Donald Miller), obtain from their saxophones. For 40 years these musicians have combined the overtones and multiphonics first exploited by saxophonists such as Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders with overdriven effects and maxed-out amplification—the results come across like field recordings of the destruction of a city by giant monster-movie insects. Though Borbetomagus don’t play very often these days, Dietrich has explored similarly blasted territory on his own and in partnerships with a small number of like-minded musicians. Chief among his projects is New Monuments, a trio with drummer Ben Hall and violinist-vocalist C. Spencer Yeh that combines electronically shredded tonalities with breakneck momentum. Last September, when Dietrich was scheduled for a solo appearance at Experimental Sound Studio’s Option series—which presents musicians playing and then speaking about their work in an intimate setting—the performance was canceled due to weather-induced travel delays. So on this visit to Chicago, he’ll perform twice: once to make up for the canceled solo appearance, and the next night with New Monuments.   v

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