January/February 2005

Paiste Signature Silver Mellow Ride and Full Crash

Paiste's Traditional and New Signature lines of premium cymbals employ the company's proprietary Signature cast bronze alloy and a variety of hand-hammering, machine assisted hand-hammering and machine-hammering techniques to approximate the dark tonalities and complex harmonic structure of its randomly hammered Turkish K line. As such, their appeal for jazz drummers is analogous to cymbals in Zildjian's K Constantinople and K Custom lines as well as Sabian's HH and HHX models. Likewise, by employing a higher shape and a more uniform, symmetrical style of hammering and lathing techniques in its premium Signature line, Paiste strives for the kind of glassy shimmer, brilliant projection, quick, bouncy feel and even tonal response that drummers would expect to find in correspondingly configured instruments from the A Zildjian and Sabian AA lines (which are primarily machine-hammered).

However, while certain Signature models-such as the Dark Crisp hi-hats and the Full crash, Mellow crash and Fast crash cymbals-have attracted a growing following among jazz musicians, the Ride cymbals in Paiste's Signature series seem maximized for amplified applications. Still, those jazz drummers with a taste for the classic A Zildjian sound of the 1950s (or Paiste's own Formula 602 cymbals of the 1960s and '70s) should take note of two exciting new additions to the Paiste Signature family that have by and large been overlooked in the excitement over the roll-out of the company's New Signature/Dark Energy series.

And considering the big bucks old Paiste Formula 602 cymbals currently fetch on eBay, the smooth, shimmering, full-bodied response of the new 21-inch Signature Silver Mellow ride and 19-inch Signature Full crash should have great appeal to those jazz drummers who, while they like the merlotlike body and red-wine complexity of randomly hammered cymbals, fancy a more piquant white-wine tang, with a sweet luminous layering of overtones and a bright, clearly focused attack- a la Papa Jo Jones, Chico Hamilton, Connie Kay and Paul Motian.

Unlike the other medium-heavy and heavy rides in the Signature line, the aptly named Silver Mellow ride and Full crash are pliant, high profile, medium-weight cymbals with a symmetrical style of hammering, a shallow, scored mode of lathing and a big rounded bell. Like those lovely old Formula 602s and those thin, mellow A Zildjians of the 1950s (as recreated in the new limited edition A Zildjian 19-inch Armand ride with rivets), the Silver Mellow Ride has a tight, warm, clear sound that is lively and radiant without being too damn bright. Employing a pair of Vic Firth Buddy Rich Signature sticks, I found that ride strokes did indeed come out silvery yet darkly lustrous, with a dulcet, bell-like attack-strong and penetrating, never hard or pingy. This ride cymbal has some give to it, and I was able to relax into dancing, clearly articulated swing patterns with a subtle touch of sparkle and a curiously rich low frequency foundation.

Playing near the very edge of the cymbal brings out the Silver Mellow ride's lush baritone voice, for a tautly rounded crash with a mellow character that cuts away neatly and cleanly. As you move up the playing surface of the Silver Mellow ride, this low frequency fundamental contributes an unmistakable atmosphere to one's sticking patterns and the overall frequency mix, suggesting the shimmering, layered textures and gently muted attack of a riveted ride cymbal minus all the hiss and sizzle. And those fat, mellow crash accents are never more than a side-stick accent away: the higher you ascend, the more silvery, tightly articulated and clear-concluding in a sparkling bell sound with a tight, quick dynamic response. And the new medium-weight 19-inch Signature Full crash proved to be a lively crash/ride, with a more rounded, immediate attack than its gently swelling 19-inch cousin, the New Signature Mark I Dark Energy crash. But where the Dark Energy crash offers a more textured, complex decay, the 19-inch Full ride better supports a light, sparkling stick attack, with a sweet, chimelike, fully functional bell and an ungodly cool balance of crash, sustain and decay that is full-bodied and fat, crystalline and incandescent-allowing me to achieve gloriously modulated orchestral diminuendos and crescendos with a pair of mallets. And while both cymbals evince an even, in-tune character, and possess a fairly pronounced note, the relationship of their fundamental pitch to the overall spectrum of overtones is not dominating but rather pleasingly ambivalent.

Those jazz drummers who feel left out in the cold by the current fashion for dark, gassy, buttery-feeling ride cymbals, who are looking instead for something brighter, sweeter and snappier-with clarity, purity and projection-should relish the crystalline musical possibilities of the new 21-inch Paiste Signature Silver Mellow ride and 19-inch Full crash.

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