Being a Jazz drummer and a lover of all music, I was delighted to one day find myself standing next to one of my favorite drummers of all time, Brian Blade. He was closely inspecting an old 1950’s 20” Zildjian Avedis cymbal that someone had brought to share with him. I anxiously waited to catch a glimpse of his masterful technique of which I could ‘borrow’ for my own arsenal of tricks when he modestly tapped the cymbal a half dozen times, and with a big Cheshire grin, said, “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore! Why can’t they make them like this?!” His statement brought a very good question to mind: Yeah! Why don’t they make them like that anymore? The answer: Mostly cost and time. It takes time and money to consistently create vintage style cymbals that actually sound good.
Admittedly, I’m a whole-hearted cymbal nerd. If cymbals were heroin I’d most certainly be in rehab by now. So when I met a person here in Portland who was trying to re-create that vintage cymbal sound everyone seems to be looking for, I jumped at the chance to learn more about them. I’m a skeptic when it comes to new cymbal lines because many claim to have the vintage sound but hardly any do. I wanted to see for myself if this new company had potential.
Tim Ennis, the company’s founder, has been traveling between Portland and Istanbul, Turkey for a few years coaching a team of cymbal makers on developing a line of cymbals that look and sound like old Zildjians. Anyone who is familiar with the old Z’s know that the early ones were made by hand in Istanbul. Right now there are quite a few cymbal companies that are making cymbals in Turkey but most are inconsistent in quality. By melting, pouring, rolling and shaping, The Cymbal & Gong team are masters of cymbal building; meaning they can build just about anything you would want. The challenge was bridging the gap of what the cymbals makers were producing vs. what drummers were actually looking for. Tim brought them actual examples of old K’s, A’s and even a really nice modern Constantinople for them to model. The result: Wow!
As a critic and a lover of ‘real’ old cymbals I MUST admit that these cymbals are quite simply some of the closest-to-vintage modern cymbals I’ve ever seen or heard. Within the Cymbal & Gong line are rides, crashes and hi hats that resemble old Zildjian A’s, K’s and Constantinoples. They’ve even managed to capture the vintage patina so the cymbal looks old too. There aren’t any big ink logos but instead a modest cold stamp (small stamp that’s hammered into the cymbal) and a small paper label under the bell; just like the old K’s had. In the end you have a visually stunning cymbal that emphasizes the art of cymbal hammering and lathing rather than mass marketing logos. In fact, I put them up next to my old K’s and it’s difficult for others to pick out the new cymbal without an inspection of the stamp. The best part is that they are consistent in both sound and look. All the cymbals I tried sound fantastic but about half sound phenomenal! If you’ve played a lot of cymbals you know how rare this is.
Building modern cymbals that are consistent and sound vintage is a very tall order for any company, let alone a small company like this. I think Cymbal & Gong has done well at fulfilling the challenge and offers a quality product. They certainly remind me of the classic sounds of famous drummers like Art Blakey, Tony Williams and Ringo Starr! I would highly recommend giving them a try, and if they suit your palate, know you’re supporting an artisan community of instrument builders who are working hard to deliver superior craftsmanship rather than mass marketing.
The cymbals are moderately priced and can be purchased mainly through Revival Drum shop and Rhythm Traders in Portland, OR. They do have limited distribution mostly on the West Coast but once the word gets out you may see them in your local shop. For now you can see, hear and purchase them by going to: Revival Drum Shop, Rhythm Traders, Sam Adato’s, Skip’s Music, The Starving Musician, and Professional Drum Shop.
By Andy Worley
Photos by Keary Ortiz