21-inch K. Constantinople Big Band Ride and 21-inch K. Custom Special Dry Ride

Over the past 30 years, drummers have demonstrated a surprising willingness to pay a premium price for vintage K. Zildjian cymbals.

And so, having developed the technology to produce ever-thinner, more malleable rollings of bronze, the creative design team at Avedis Zildjian & Co. has expanded upon 15-plus years of research into computer-assisted machine-hammering techniques to develop some radical new styles of over-hammering that are in some ways analogous to those techniques practiced by the original K. Zildjian crew in Turkey. This has enabled Zildjian to develop the core instruments in its limited edition K. Constantinople line, as well as some bold, new, modern-retro instruments.

Zildjian has succeeded in replicating the feel and tonal character of the classic K. Zildjians in that no two are really alike, but some general parameters occur. The 20-inch and 22-inch Lights have a creamy, laid-back character that allows for a warm, controllable wash of sound that propels the music from the bottom up; the ride feel is soft, chewy and vowellike. By contrast the two Medium models (especially the bigger 22-inch) have a drier, more sticky feel, with a sweeter, more subtle wash of overtones-the effect is focused and penetrating, with a supple hint of cometlike gas trailing in the beat’s wake. Rounding things out, the deeply pitched 18-inch K. Constantinople crash produces a big, dark sound with a billowing wash of overtones that cuts out quickly, while the 16-inch Constantinople crash offers a fast transient attack, with a rich blend of low overtones and a relatively high pitch. Finally, the 14-inch K. Constantinople hi-hats are dark and crispy, with a light, tight foot sound, offering warm, raspy articulations when played with the sticks.

It is at the point where Zildjian departed from a strict formula of emulating old instruments, while imparting classic qualities to modern designs, that it has produced some of its most compelling cymbals, such as a new pair of 21-inch rides. Why a 21-inch cymbal? A 21-inch ride cymbal offers much of the body and extra projection of a 22-inch but without all of the mass; likewise, it retains the focus and clarity of a 20-inch but with a fuller, more complex voice. The new 21-inch K. Constantinople Big Band ride employs a broader, deeper style of cup like that of the 24-inch K. Constantinople Light ride (the 22-inch K. Constantinople rides feature small, shallow cups), resulting in a higher fundamental pitch and a richer blend of overtones. And while the 21-inch Big Band ride is listed as a medium-heavy, it doesn’t feel that way-there is nothing clangy or stiff about this ride. The depth of lathing around the final third of the cymbal surface seems much deeper, resulting in a warm, flexible attack, with an even expressive range of overtones from top to bottom. The bell sound is superb, offering a powerful, controlled range of accents, while the ride feel is tautly focused yet wide open-it just sings-allowing the kind of controlled, throaty roar Buddy Rich and Sonny Payne once employed to underscore the attack of big brass sections.

As such the 21-inch K. Constantinople Big Band ride is the perfect complement to the tighter, stickier attack of its brother in bronze, the new medium-thin 21-inch K. Custom Special Dry ride. Unlike the 22-inch K. Custom Dry Light ride-an over-hammered, unlathed, medium-thin cymbal whose dark, pangy bead sound nails the beat tighter than a lockdown at Rikers-the new 21-inch Special Dry ride’s stick sound is sweeter and more flexible, with a warm sheen of controlled midrange overtones shadowing each beat. The Special Dry ride employs the same radical hammering attack as its K. Custom forebearer-a deep, rounded style of hammer strikes to focus the sound and add temper to the metal-but it is lightly lathed on the back, and scraped rather than lathed on top, which gives it a slightly psychedelic mien and a low undertone. It offers a wide range of articulations whether you ride, shank or crash away, and the broad, shallow bell has a crystalline, penetrating character. What’s especially satisfying about this cymbal is the ease with which you can control the relative dryness or wetness of each beat, from a pinpoint bebop attack, to an expressive shout, and how it allows you to really open up with multiple crash accents, yet downshift back to a clean ride sound in a heartbeat. The 21-inch K. Custom Special Dry ride is one of the finest all-around ride cymbals I’ve ever played-a real breakthrough for jazz drummers, but the perfect cymbal for any style of music where character and control are at a premium.