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Jimmy Cobb & Peter Erskine On Ride Cymbals

What to look for in jazz's essential cymbal

Peter Erskine
Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb

When it comes to the drum-set hierarchy, the snare, toms, bass drum and hi-hat often get the glory. But in jazz, it’s the ringing, pulsing ride cymbal-and how it’s played, of course-that gives the music its rhythmic center and distinguishes a great drummer. Given the myriad makes, models, thicknesses and sizes, what’s the best method for choosing the right ride?

It begins from the inside out, explains Peter Erskine, the Weather Report veteran and noted bandleader and educator also recognized for his work with Steely Dan, Diana Krall, John Abercrombie and others. “What you hear in your head is what you’ll draw out of any instrument. I expect the cymbal to do something and I can usually draw that out,” Erskine said recently from Brooklyn, his home base while playing-in the pit and onstage-for the New York City Opera’s production of Anna Nicole.

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