It's been a busy year for the Swiss cymbal and gong company Paiste, what with the new Big Beat series and reinvigorated Formula 602 and 2002 ranges.
Now we have three contrasting ride cymbals – two signature models and a whopping great Giant Beat.
We're getting used to seeing gigantic cymbals recently and the Giant Beat Multi-Functional ride, coming in at 26", is decidedly bigger than most. Apart from its size it's an unusual looker on account of its vintage, darkly citrus lemony colour.
The other two cymbals fall into the Artist Inspiration camp, reflecting Paiste artists' ideas both sonically and visually. Session great John 'JR' Robinson's 24" Swish ride befits his larger-than-life musical character. It has the upturned edge of a China type with the conventional small rounded bell of a Swish. JR is represented on the cymbal by the label 'Signature Groove' and the musical notation of his famous drum intro to Michael Jackson's 'Rock With You'. The cymbal is a 2002, so it has the familiar striking red logo on the brightly burnished CuSn8 2002 bronze.
Next to these two, French jazz drummer Andre Ceccarelli's 20" B20 alloy Masters Series Mellow 'Blue Bird' ride has the subtle and timeless look of a vintage Turkish, heavily- beaten jazz ride with wide blade lathing. This cymbal is also part of the Artist Inspiration series and Ceccarelli personally supplied the Blue Bird graphic label.
We reviewed the new Big Beat series earlier this year and it's easy to confuse them with the Giant Beats, which is a line that goes back to the 1960s. This pioneering professional B8 alloy series was played by John Bonham until it was replaced in 1971 by the rather edgier 2002s. The Giant Beat series was resurrected and faithfully reproduced from the originals by Paiste in 2005.
They have a slightly softer sound than the more modern and aggressive Big Beat/2002s. Still, the stick feel of this 26" is pingy and penetrating, setting off an imposing ride that is not so much dark, but we'd say more broad and deep.
Where the Giant Beat is regal, JR's 2002 Swish is fearsome.
With such a big surface area it pays to explore different regions, thus the edge is noticeably softer and darker, although stick definition stays clear so long as you don't over-hit. And being such a big cymbal, if you crash the edge there is a measure of oriental gong-style tone in the voluminous wash.
Played in the middle it is harder and ting-ier, while the large bell is particularly impressive. This is where you can really stoke up some volume if needs be. Overall the cymbal comes across as warm and mellow, but commanding with a stately Pink Floyd-ballad sort of vibe.
Where the Giant Beat is regal, JR's 2002 Swish is fearsome. It was developed to complement his Masters 24" Deep ride, but that's a refined B20 alloy cymbal where this has a nasty edge, designed to stoke things up.
The 2002s were always aimed at high volume electric music and this bulky Oriental-tinged Swish has a coruscating attack, actually among the loudest metals of any description we can recall. Which is not to say it doesn't have a wide dynamic range plus a lot of tonal colours over the surface – extremely pingy nearer the bell, almost soft on the outer upturned lip, strong and dense in the centre. Smashed energetically it is a leviathan that will scare guitarists at 50 paces. Not for the faint-hearted then, but exciting and musical all the same.
If that is not your bag, turn to the B20 alloy Blue Bird ride which has the unmistakable buttery 'tahh' of a vintage jazz ride, with a deeper and more mellow wash. But this is bolstered by a lively, brighter edge so that the resulting ride is not trashy, but has a modern aspect too – a cool combination of classic and contemporary.
The bell arises out of the cymbal physically and sonically – it is connected and has a soft tinkling quality. In every way this is a sensitive and musical cymbal, appropriate for all situations, live and recording – not just jazz – where a controlled, singing, sweet and silvery tone is sought. Lovely.