NAMM wrap-up and the new kit…

Well, NAMM was pretty interesting this year.  While it lacked in innovation (in my humble opinion), there were some interesting things to check out.  This year though it was really all about being on the floor and hanging out with friends and seeing faces I only get the chance to see for this brief sonically challenging weekend in January.  I wouldn’t say I got the chance to see everything I wanted, but amongst the madness, certain things stood out.  Here are my rather biased highlights…

Vater had some new artist models and it was great to see Chad Brandolini and the whole crew.  If I’ve not mentioned before, Chad is a sweetheart and was kind enough to offer me one of my first endorsements.  I couldn’t imagine using another stick or implement… ever.  I also got to hang with my buddy (and fellow Vater artist) Jeff Stern a good bit and that was a blast!  To walk around and hang and just catch up was a treat.  2010 was a crazy year for us both (for VERY different reasons) but I’m glad to see that we were there, in good spirits and playing a bunch.   He’s a mensch in every definition of the word.

Istanbul Agop now has a 24″ Cindy Blackman Om ride and they’ve redesigned the Matt Chamberlain 23″ signature ride and I’m looking forward to adding BOTH to my collection some point in 2011.  These things sounded amazing.  Also totally mouth watering were the 16″ light hats (traditionals).  Serious bronze pies and while my bias is showing again… it was killer groovy to hang with Scott Liken and Evan and Patrick.  Good stuff.  You MUST check Istanbul Agop stuff out.  It’s as simple as that.

I also had the great fortune to meet and hang with Matt Nolan of Nolan Custom Cymbals.  While most everyone knows my love of Istanbul Agop, Matt’s prowess with hammer and torch has created some amazing artisan gongs, cymbals, and sound sculptures that need to be played and heard to be believed.  Mssr. Nolan is also a most humble and gracious cat and we talked not only at the Drumsmith dinner on Thursday night, but throughout the weekend as well.  I got to try out all manner of interesting and lovely sounding rides and crashes… including a 20″ ride (bronze) that I will own someday (once Matt makes a few more so he doesn’t have to sell me his one prototype!)

Paiste has reintroduced their venerable 602 line and I checked out what they had happening for my friend, mentor, and drummer extraordinaire Alex Cline.  The 602’s didn’t disappoint… even amongst the din of the hall.  Wonderful bronze pies.  They are back!  While there, I got the chance to meet and hang with none other than Fredy Studer.  A master drummer and long time Paiste cat.  He’s also on their R&D team now.  As our mutual friend is the aforementioned Alex Cline, I had an instant in and we had a nice chat about all things cymbal-ic (heh, get it?  Oh, never mind…)

One of the more interesting and inspiring things (one of the few as well…) was Swan Percussion.  The brain child of master wood worker Eric Holland and drummer/percussionist Mike Meadows, this new company is really doing something innovative.  They’ve taken the idea of the traditional gambai drum and tweaked it.  This 16″ headed drum is full of interesting features.  First, it’s tuning mechanism is like that of a roto-tom.  You can play the head with a bass drum pedal (reversed), hands, brushes, feet… you name it. It also has an adjustable side panel you can slap and coax additional sounds out of.  AND, you can attach cowbells, tambourines, you name it… thanks to an opening on the other side of the drum.  It’s really an amazing instrument and while I understood the concept, I wasn’t as capable on it next to someone as good as Mike Meadows.  Swan also offers a cajon that is absolutely lovely sounding and built like a tank.  I think I may be giving Eric a call soon to get into one of those instruments.  Do check out the Swan Percussion site for more information.  Definitely innovative and fun stuff!

But, you are probably asking yourself ‘Hey Christopher, what new kit?’  Well, I’m glad you asked.  About a year ago (NAMM 2010, in fact), Ronn Dunnett of Dunnett and George Way Drums and I started talking about a one of a kind drum kit for me.  Ronn, as some of you may know is the cat that really legitimized titanium as a shell material and his experience and design concepts have been the catalyst of a wide range of amazing sounding snare drums and limited edition kits for the likes of Matt Chamberlain, Ronald Bruner Jr., and Kurt Dahle.  All of these kits were BIG though.  22″ and 24″ bass drums… things like that… so I was kind of kidding Ronn saying “hey man, how about a little titanium progressive bop kit?  What’s up?!!”  He said “you know, I’ve got the shells already made…”  The rest played itself at the Amedia cymbal booth when, on Thursday morning… bleary eyed and already with a headache from the noise… I turn the corner of walkway near Canopus drums and I see it… a full titanium bop kit with die cast hoops and clear maple bass drum hoops.  18×14 bass drum, 12×8 rack tom, and 14×14 floor tom.  Tuned up in full jazz glory (thing early Elvin or Art or Tony)… these things SING with a clear and strong voice.  Design elements include full length tube lugs, hyper-vents on the toms, and an ingenius rack tom mounting system of Ronn’s own design (with some help from a few DW parts).  I will have pics of this beauty up soon.  Since getting it home I have put a bass drum lifter on to get the beater a little closer to center and am assembling the rest of the hardware that will live with this kit (3 DW flush based cymbals stands, a DW flush base snare drum stand, probably a DW flush base hi-hat stand too).  I’m also planning on doing a felt strip on the batter side and resonant side to take a little bit of the edge off.  I’m also waiting on a Dunnett logo head for the front side of the kick as well.  To say I’m excited and honored to own such an amazing kit is an understatement.  This is a truly inspiring instrument and I plan on getting a lot of mileage out of it for years to come.  Ronn has outdone himself on this one and I appreciate his attention to detail, his commitment to the ongoing development of the instrument, and his friendship. This thing is absolutely the dog’s bollocks.

If all of this wasn’t enough I also got to have a great hang session on Saturday night with Ronn, Randy Black (fantastic drummer and Candian ex-pat living in Germany), and Bill Detamore and Jon Biggs of Pork Pie Drums.  After a lovely dinner and a quick stop for some beer… we were awed and amazed by Mr. Detamore’s prowess destroying various bricks with his bare hands.  How someone can create some of the finest bearing edges in the industry and still destroy bricks… with his BARE HANDS is an interesting dichotomy to me.  Much laughter and drum talk ensued and the evening was topped off back at Ronn and Randy’s room with some great music from Max Webster and Kim Mitchell, as well as much talk about our experiences at the show up to that point.  Good stuff.

So, there’s a somewhat biased NAMM download and some words to whet the whistles of those drumniks that want a gander at the new Dunnett kit.  Pics and video to be posted soon (like, as soon as I figure out how to post the stuff up here).  Until then, be well my friends.

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