According to my reckoning on this second day of winter NAMM 2013, Istanbul Agop ties with A Zildjian, the historic benchmark sadly neglected and now restored to 1950s-1960s specs, as the cymbal stunner of NAMM 2013. I can say without blinking that Istanbul Agop offers the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the most ancient Turkish-made K Zildjians in my collection, perhaps not surprising since Istanbul Agop represents the fruits of the labors of one of the two brothers who worked for K Zildjian, then, on the demise of that company, formed their own entity, which then dissolved out of various discontents and concerns, following an age-old family tradition. Fortunately, in this instance, one or, as some say, both brothers continued the heritage K Zildjian tradition to its logical conclusion circa 2013. It is my distinct impression and tactile conclusion that of the two Istanbul Agop does proud the tradition and even adds value, this conclusion gleaned from NAMM 2013.
Although Agop’s brother Mehmet is making credible cymbals, recently upping the ante on account, perhaps, of an influx of cash due to an agreement to supply a European cymbal company with Turkish-fired blanks, I found his cymbals less complex, less rich and touch-friendly, and less owing to the heritage of the attributes of 1940s through 1960s Turkish Ks (yes, I’ve played a slew of these and own several).
Even the models described by Agop as “affordable” exceeded (confounded!) my expectations so much so that I identified one such cymbal and its kin as an elite product. My embarassment was compounded when Agop personnel advised me that this particular series was ”less labor intensive”, meaning it incorporated a little machine work with the oft-cited hand hammering. I ought to drop a bomb but I’ll quickly state that the so-called machine hammering invoked to produce this cymbal is the Quincy Drop-Hammer, a foot controlled (think sewing machine) human operated device that was, in fact, employed in the making of A Zildjians as far as memory serves and is used, in some form, in the crafting of the excellent Paiste 602 series, which I review in the next Modern Drummer. The pin lathing on this budget line, which I will identify in a later article, combined with the extensive hammer mottling and resulting convolutions, wobbling and setting, identifies it as a cymbal I could use in any situation I could imagine, from orchestra to jazz to Seattle to singer songwriter. I better get back to you on this, lest my perceptions be clouded by jetlag.
One additional clarification of the Agop catalog that distinguishes it from lMehmet’s.
While the jury is out (not me but the jury) on Agop addressing endorsers Chamberlain, Waronker et al with signature cymbals that further the “old K” lineage, I found Mehmet models sketchy, occasionally non-musical, and frivolous. Jeez, I regret allowing those words to escape my lips but if I don’t utter them, you ain’t gonna hear them elsewhere, trust me.
Fact is, Agop offers the most emphatically accurate replication of the true old, hand cupped and hand hammered into-shape ancient pre-1970s Ks I’ve witnessed. It is the Istanbul Agop 30th Anniversary cymbal, available in several sizes, including some mushy but distinctively cool hats. Scott Likken had sent me a jpeg, over which, (bastard he is!) I drooled but waited two years to set stick to; and today was that momentous occasion wherein I did slap a good selection of Anniversaries silly. Damn but they are the stuff of my earliest memories as a drummer.
And the Agops do not carry any disclaimer, such as made in the old tradition but upgraded for the modern drummer. All this means, in most instances, is a cymbal that humps metal up in the bow to serve articulation and thickens it in the edges to prevent breakage.
My greatest surprise this day: the metal-shelled drumset of my dreams…and branded World Max!
And, oh my God, I’d been thinking recently of Spizzichino metal kits, which the late cymbal designer occasionally turned out. These were heavy, metal clad drumsets that offered a unique palette of overtones and, indeed, a pitched presence unrivaled today except by the excellent Trick drum, which I believe is an unsung instrument.
I thought I’d be the last person on earth to appreciate anything, apart from a few beautiful snare drums, from the Asian company World Max.
Well, as in the instance of so much good music and so many good instruments, I am once again wrong as rain.
This is an aesthetically compelling drumset that eats any conceivable competitors for breakfast on any criterion I can utter: it’s built like a tank; you can barely lift the floor tom with one hand; it delivers true pitches reminiscent of the excellent Trick aluminum series but, well, much differently. Later, okay?