Istanbul was founded by master cymbalsmiths Agop Tomurcuk and Mehmet Tamdeger in 1980. Agop and Mehmet had previously worked at Zildjian's K factory for the three decades until the plant's closure in 1978. After Agop's premature death in 1996 his sons, Arman and Sarkis, took over the running of the Istanbul company, renaming it Istanbul Agop.
At the same time, former partner Mehmet decided to leave and set up on his own. This explains why today there are two brands of Istanbul cymbal available: Istanbul Agop and Istanbul Mehmet.
Azure is an all-new range of Istanbul Agop cymbals that sets out to appeal to a wider audience. Famously handmade, Istanbul Agop cymbals are known for being warm and musical instruments. The Azure cymbals are an attempt to provide a more focused, modern sound without altogether eradicating the core Istanbul Agop characteristics.
As with all Istanbul Agop models, each cymbal is individually cast from B20 bronze before being hammered and lathed by hand. The company is unwilling to reveal exactly how the process differs from that of other Istanbul Agop cymbals, preferring to leave such details shrouded in mystery. There are plenty of small hammer marks visible across all the cymbals, and concentrated bands of lathing on both sides as well.
Presently, the Azure range consists of one pair of hi-hats, two crashes and a pair of rides. We began with the 16" and 18" crashes. Both opened quickly with a clean, toppy fizz that was rounded off by a warm underlying note. Decay was smooth and harmonious, and in the fade it was possible to detect a tiny hint of trashiness (a little more audibly in the 18") that alluded to the crashes' Turkish origins.
In short, a pair of decent, well balanced crashes.
The 14" hi-hats continued in the same vein, giving an impressive account of themselves. They were well behaved without being polite, and were crispy and precise while still possessing warmth and a degree of mellowness. Although they wouldn't have the power to cut across in a metal gig, they make a good all-round pair of hats suitable for many situations.
The two ride cymbals, while being very playable, were much warmer than the other cymbals. Like classic Turkish rides they were thin, dark and lively and gave a strong woody stick sound that was carried by a galloping wash. Lovely though they are, it's hard to imagine them being of much interest to anyone outside the jazz/hip funkster scene.