Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Cymbal sounds: Tony-like

I was rooting around in my music listening to ride cymbal sounds, and was surprised to find, in pretty short order, a number of things similar to Tony Williams's famous cymbal— similar to it, or flanking it somehow. Let's check them out. 

To me the definitive recordings of Tony's cymbal are Nefertiti or Four & More, with the Plugged Nickel recordings revealing a wilder edge than the other records. The prettiest, most intimate recording of it is on Charles Lloyd's Of Course, Of Course: 

I was just listening to older records where the drummers would be using original Istanbul K. Zildjian cymbals. Or possibly old A.s— my ears aren't perfect. At least it should be instructive to listen closely to some records and make the comparison. 

Dexterity - Charlie Parker / Dial Masters - Max Roach

One of the first jazz records I ever heard— dug it out of my dad's record collection. Recorded in 1947, this big cymbal sound was surprising to me— I expect everything happening in the 40s to have one foot in the swing era, with everyone riding on little cymbals or on their hihats.   

This is like the proto-Tony cymbal, with a rougher, deeper sound, close to a Cymbal & Gong cymbal (22" Holy Grail “Richard”) I sold to a guitarist friend, Ryan Meagher. Max moves to the ride cymbal at 0:30:

MC - Andrew Hill / Grass Roots - Idris Muhammad

Probably a 20" cymbal here, you could call this a baby version of the Tony cymbal. Higher pitched, without the big body; there's a brighter edge to the attack (possibly due to a crude digital remastering job?). Something about catches my ear as being Tony-like— the big spread up in the same pitch range as the attack? He hits a big accent with it after 3:00 which should tell you a lot about the cymbal; I find that aspect pretty un-Tony cymbal-like, for what it's worth. 

I've heard a lot of Joe Chambers, and I don't know why this distinctly Tony-like cymbal never caught my ear. His touch is quite different. I'm pretty sure the same 22" K. Zildjian is used on all of these records. Now I'll go comb his interviews to see if he's ever made mention of it. Or maybe somebody out there knows him...

Total Eclipse - Bobby Hutcherson / Total Eclipse - Joe Chambers
This cymbal is lovely. He's got some really nice hihats too, while we're at it. Listen after about 3:00 especially. Recorded at Plaza Sound by Duke Pearson and Francis Wolff in 1968. 

Subtle Neptune - Bobby Hutcherson / Oblique - Joe Chambers
I'm pretty sure this is the same cymbal as on Total Eclipse. Recorded at Van Gelder by Alfred Lion exactly one year earlier— and again, who knows what they did to it in remastering. You can hear a more piercing attack here.

Black Heroes - Bobby Hutcherson / Now! - Joe Chambers
Almost certain to be the same cymbal recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1969. Does anyone out there know Joe? 

Spiral - Bobby Hutcherson / Medina - Joe Chambers
Recorded at Van Gelder in '69. Again there are some rather piercing highs that I believe are the result of the digital remaster.  

Lester Leaps In - Lee Konitz / Peacemeal - Jack Dejohnette
Jack Dejohnette early in his career playing another baby Tony cymbal, probably a 20" K.? Pretty dry, but with all the handling properties of Tony's thing— great accents with the shoulder of the stick— on a smaller the scale. 

Finally let's check out what Tony himself was playing a little later. 

Lawra - Herbie Hancock / Third Plane - Tony Williams
Kind of an awful-sounding 70s recording, this was recorded before the new American K. Zildjians, so this is a Turkish cymbal. Sounds like a jazz cymbal getting a little overwhelmed by some big sticks. Still an interesting sound, wilder than his old cymbal, slightly exotic.

I think a main feature of the old cymbal is a big, sustained, controlled wash— here the wash is splashier; you can hear it building quickly and falling off with every stroke. A few thinner C&Gs have this sound— I never felt I could use it, but it is intriguing. I've seen a number of Agop Signatures with this quality in an extreme way. 

I encourage you to comment with your impressions— perceptions can be very slippery, and I know some readers will just have better ears and more experience listening to cymbals than me. 


Ted Warren said...

Great post! Joe Chambers has a new recording coming out so you should interview him!

Todd Bishop said...

Hmmm maybe I'll send him a note-- how badly could I blow something like that, after all....

Bernd Klug said...

Hi Todd, for you and all folks interested in Toni Williams' cymbal sound: ISTANBUL MEHMET (www.istanbulmehmet)makes a set of TW' cymbals. They use(d) the original cymbals of TW as templates. These cymbals were given to them by Toni's widow.

Mr. Tamdeger's teacher in cymbal crafting was Mikael Zildjian, maker of the famous Zildjian Constantinople cymbals.

chebeiker said...

Nobody like Spizzichino to emulate Tony's famous K.