Friday, July 22, 2022

Alejian cymbals

I made an interesting purchase at that Chehalis, Washington drummer swap meet— an 18" Alejian brand cymbal. At 1368 grams, it would be categorized as approximately a medium thin crash, maybe a crash-ride— it acts like a general purpose cymbal. The sound is like a complex vintage A. Zildjian— with good reason, because it is a Zildjian product. 

What caught my attention is its physical similarity to “A-type” Holy Grails by Cymbal & Gong, with the squarish 50s bell, and the similar complex sound. Played together with my 20" A-type Holy Grail, they're clearly the same kind of thing— though the HGs sound nicer, and a little softer.

Here it is played along with my 20" and 22" Holy Grails, both A-type:  


I never heard of Alejian, but it was a Zildjian-manufactured product sold by the Slingerland company from the mid 1940s to the mid 70s. By its appearance, I guess this cymbal dates from the late 50s-early 60s. 

Robert Zildjian said this about the brand in an It's Questionable response in Modern Drummer magazine, in October '93— I don't know why he spells it Alegian: 

“Alegian was a brand name given to second-line Zildjian cymbals— cymbals that 'didn't make it' into the Zildjian product line. We used to sell them as 'Zilcos' to Ludwig and as 'Alejians' to Slingerland. Bud Slingerland always insisted on that name, because it ended with 'ian', which made it look like a real Armenian deal. Prior to 1968 the cymbals were made at the Zildjian plant in Norwell, Massachusetts. From 1968 until they were discontinued in 1975, they were made at what was then the Canadian Zildjian plant and is now the Sabian factory. 

So what you have is a second-line Zildjian cymbal, which, due to its age, is probably sounding much better. On a lot of the Zilco/Alegian cymbals, what one person thought was a bad sound probably would be good for another person. So you probably have a good deal there: a Zildjian cymbal that was rejected not of any manufacturing defect, but only becasue it didn't meet the acoustic 'trends' of its day.”

Remembering that Mel Lewis described his famous A. Zildjian as a bad Zildjian, today it would be a terrible Zildjian, the right second-line Zildjian could work out really well. So, bargain hunters, look out for these— and for Zilcos. There are a lot of them floating around the online market, on eBay and Reverb, but those people are mostly hip to them, so they're not necessarily cheaper than similar vintage A. Zildjians (which happen to be rather overpriced right now). I imagine there are enough actually bad ones that buying a lot of them blind wouldn't make a lot of sense. The bargain opportunities are probably to be found in person in independent stores, pawn shops, garage sales, and Craigslist. 

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