Casio Privia PX 330 Keyboard
Casio have for many years been producing keyboards for what perhaps might best be described as the home entertainment market. However, with the advent of the Privia PX 330 this has clearly changed. The Privia is a full scale piano keyboard with an excellent weighted key action that also offers good dynamics and we were able to play with a light or heavy touch (and in between!) and in each case the instrument gave a good response. We weren’t however entirely happy with the ‘on board’ sound system, as we felt it didn’t necessarily bring out the best in the PX 330, so we conducted the whole test using an SR Jam 90 acoustic combo.
The panel sounds are very simple and straightforward with the usual array of grand modern, classic grand, electric, organ and the ubiquitous strings. But it is with the General Midi set of sounds that the PX 330 really comes alive. Add one of the options into the mix and you immediately release colour, depth and width into the sound with some extraordinary results – electric piano 2 sounds very much like an old Yamaha DX! Another particularly impressive voice was that of the ‘Rock Piano’. Needless to say, the PX 330 comes with its own rhythm section, where as always, the latin beats are the most evocative with some other less up tempo selections mixed in for good measure. But being Casio, there are plenty of other electronically driven devices that this sonic station has to offer. There is an option of putting strings with piano without the need to layer. But if you wish to layer sounds and adjust volumes this option is still available.
Although the PX 330 does have a keyboard split (the string bass sound being very good), there is a full range option, allowing the player to use the full keyboard as a piano. Other useful extensions to the modus operandi include a USB and an SD card port, together with a midi in/out and left/right outputs and inputs. However, the ‘string section’ was rather implausible. Neither were we completely convinced by the rather relaxed rotary on the Hammond sound. On the plus side, the vibe sound carried an excellent timbral impression and within the electric piano soundbox there was a very believable Wurli. (DG) For more go to www.casio.com
Fret King Country Squire Semitone De Luxe Guitar
Although most of the Fret King range of guitars is aimed fair and square at the rock player, the Country Squire with its semi-acoustic, single ‘f’ hole-chambered construction, is a much more versatile instrument. Jazzwise sampled the all-UK built Green label model made in the Fret King factory in Lancashire. With a body made up in two piece swamp ash, this Telecaster lookalike is a beautifully crafted, superbly balanced guitar. The sample came with a rosewood board on a bolt on maple neck, and had a 1960s style shallow C neck profile with a 10-inch fingerboard radius. Fret King have used a smaller than normal trussrod in the neck to maximise the amount of wood and by implication create greater sustain and response. Electrics are served by two single coil, vintage voiced, Alnico V pickups in the neck and centre positions, with a Fret King Humbucker in the bridge position. A five way Tele-style switch offers various combinations, with position 4 giving a very punchy humbucker and central single coil.
The acoustic chambers in the body of the Country Squire make it a very resonant instrument and this along with the almost solid wood neck gives the player what might be expected – incredible sustain. The fretboard is almost akin too playing on a marble slab and that 10inch fingerboard radius makes note-bending a cinch. Whichever combination of pickup is used, the sound produced has a refined fluidity with a warm, rich tone. The tone is vintage to a tee. (DG) For more go to www.fret-king.com
Step by Step Guide To Jazz Drumming
A new book and CD tutor that aims to take the fear and mystique out of learning jazz drumming and get the newcomer up and started arrives in the form of Baby Steps to Giant Steps, published by drum education experts Hudson Music at £12.95. Conceived by Spencer Strand, creator of the popular Turn It Up & Lay It Down tutor series, and written by drummer/educators Peter Retzlaff and Jim Rupp, the book is targeted at funk and rock players who are interested in learning the swing feel of classic and hard-bop jazz. With this in mind the authors take time out in the introduction to look at the differences between rock and funk and jazz/swing drumming and compare and contrast key elements, such as subdivision of the beat, articulation, accents, time feel and direction. The first half of the book concentrates on learning how to play jazz time and uses clear instructional narrative, graphics and notation. Topics covered include, ride cymbal playing; feathering the bass drum; syncopated figures and triplets; jazz fills and the basics of playing with brushes. The second half puts this instruction into practice with drum charts, lead sheets and explanatory notes that go with the 11 track play along CD, and include examples of major and minor blues as well as standards such as ‘Take The A Train’, ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ and ‘Giant Steps’. Detailed discographical recommendations and a reading list complete what is a refreshing and thoughtful approach to jazz drum tutors and one that does not assume the newcomer already has a depth of prior knowledge – often a failing in some other beginner jazz titles. (JN) For more go to www.hudsonmusic.com
Zildjian launch new jazz orientated ride cymbals Building on their acclaimed K Zildjian Constantinople high-end cast bronze range, originally launched in the late 1990s, Zildjian have turned to the noted jazz drummer Kenny Washington to collaborate on the design for their new 22in Bounce Ride. The K Constantinople is the nearest Zildjian range to the legendary old K Zildjian cymbals that were originally handmade in Turkey and are most sought after by jazz players looking for depth and subtlety rather than ball-breaking volume. The 22in Bounce Ride is based on an old K model that Washington had played for years and features a medium thin weight with traditional K Constantinople hammering, very pronounced lathing grooves and eight clustered overhammering marks on the top surface. Zildjian claim the cymbal has plenty of stick bounce, sustain and wash with a trashy crash and a pitch that can ride over most small to big band settings. Also new to the K Constantinople range is a 22in Thin Ride Overhammered that, as the name suggests, features additional large hammer marks over the original hammering that gives a dark, dryer than usual sound with unusually crisp stick articulation that is well suited for small to medium sized groups. And to the K Zildjian range comes a 20in Light Flat Ride that offers a dark, warm sound with extreme stick definition. (JN) For more go to www.zildjian.com
Pure Evoke 3 Radio
We don’t usually include radios and Hi-Fi in this column, but we were so impressed with this unit, that we thought it only right that you should know about it (if you don’t already!). If you’re an avid airwaves listener, then the Evoke 3 has to be the answer to each and every one of your prayers. It is quite simply the most advanced DAB radio in the world, combining the very latest technological innovation with what is widely considered to be one of the leading sound delivery systems in it’s class – and it’s an allBritish design!
This extraordinary radio not only allows you to view electronic programme guide listings for seven days, all easily accessible via the intuitive menu system and six line graphical display; but also, having chosen the programmes you like, you can then set multiple record times and the unit will record over fifteen hours of radio to an SD memory card. Being interrupted while you’re listening isn’t a problem, the Evoke 3 allows you to pause and rewind live radio with its state of the art ‘ReVu’ feature. As if this wasn’t enough, the unit has up to twenty timer functions to wake up to and comes with an auxiliary input so that you can listen to an iPod, mini-disc player, or CD player through its superb speakers. The Evoke 3 is also part of Pure’s ‘EcoPlus’ range, so you’ll be glad to know that it uses just a fifth of the standby power of other similar units. It is truly remarkable. (DG) For more go to www.pure.com