Borbetomagus saxophonist Don Dietrich gives a rare performance with Detroit drummer Ben Hall | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Borbetomagus saxophonist Don Dietrich gives a rare performance with Detroit drummer Ben Hall 

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click to enlarge Ben Hall and Don Dietrich

Ben Hall and Don Dietrich

courtesy the artists

Few instrumentalists are as closely aligned with a group and a sound as saxophonists Don Dietrich and Jim Sauter. Since 1979 they’ve worked with guitarist Donald Miller as Borbetomagus, a ferociously loud, overdriven improvisational ensemble that sculpts its blown-out attack with a mix of brutality and refined detail. During the course of nearly four decades the saxophonists hadn’t stepped outside that context aside from recording a single duo album and a trio with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. That’s slowly changed in recent years: Sauter now has an ongoing duo with Oneida drummer Kid Millions, and last year Dietrich released two mind-melting albums. On Dietrich (Pica Disk), a high-pressure solo reissue that was originally released in 2002, his lines are slathered with penetrating electronic effects that turn his tenor lines into live-wire hallucinations marked by wild psychoacoustic effects and end-times mayhem. As a bonus the album contains the song “Chinese Root Letter/Tabulae Sex,” which was previously released as a seven-inch on Moore’s Ecstatic Peace Records in 1994. His second new release, Dietrich’s (Pica Disk), is a collaboration with his daughter, cellist Camille, who goes note for note with him and matches his intensity. In 2011, Dietrich made a duo album with drummer Ben Hall called Spitfire (What the . . . ?). Here he plays without the amplification and effects he usually wields in Borbetomagus, and he has no problem relying on sheer lung power, brandishing his tenor like a scythe, cutting down everything and anything in his path, and slashing and bulldozing over Hall’s inexhaustible fury in a nonstop barrage of rolling rhythm and metallic sizzle. Earlier this year Hall dropped New Thing Called Breathing (Relative Pitch) with his twitchy sextet Racehorse Names, where he brings clarity to the group’s skittering collective improvisation, his splattery percussion nicely underlining the swooping reeds of John Dierker, probing strings of Mike Khoury, and prickly guitar of Joe Morris.   v

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