This is one of Ludwig’s centenary models and it’s quite a character. You’ll either love or hate the laser engraved shell with, for me, its rather overworked swirls and whirls. With a deep brass shell coated in black nickel, a 14-inch head and diecast hoops and tube style lugs, there’s no doubting its Black Beauty lineage. I loved the feel of it as it’s wonderfully responsive, has a really full tone at the bottom end and a highly defined sound even when it was being played softly at lower levels. It also has a crisp, clear snare sound. The rims are higher than normal and this gave cutting rim shots an extraordinarily well defined “stick click”. But behind a 35-piece band, this baby was struggling on projection and power. Slot it into a small combo however and this Black Magic really comes into its own and this is clearly where it is best placed. The Black Magic isn’t a fully fledged Black Beauty, but a little customising could make it into a really tidy piece of kit.

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A new range of hihat cymbals that combine the dark tones and crisp stick articulation favoured by jazz drummers with the volume and power to cut through high volume front lines has been launched by Sabian. The HHX Fusion Hats, part of the company’s Modern Dark series, are top-end B20 cast bronze models and come in 13in and 14in sizes with different type cymbals on the top and bottom, hence the term ‘Fusion’. The top cymbal is a HHX series, medium weight, pin-lathed model while the bottom is a heavy, HH un-lathed, hand-hammered type. The combination of the smooth top cymbal and raw bottom produces a dark, well defined stick sound with a strong foot pedal ‘chick’ while the HHX top, with the new Tone Projection design, adds the extra volume to cut through a big band’s horn barrage or the roar from a wall of Marshalls. (JN) For more go to

These very special cymbals are handcrafted by Sabian’s master artisans from the Vault team and are only available in limited quantities. The marketing blurb tells me that this is a “collection” as opposed to a “series” with each cymbal having its own unique personality. This along with both our sample 14” hi-hats and 18” crash having their very own padded sleeve/case, gave me some idea of what I might expect and needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. The hats have the most gorgeous pronounced and musical ‘click’ that I have ever encountered. The bottom cymbal is noticeably heavier and I loved the sensitivity of the top cymbal – and these hats spoke with total clarity when playing a swing rhythm with the hats half-closed. But perhaps their best attribute is that they are sensitive enough to respond at very low volumes, making them the ideal partner in any musical environment, be it big band, combo or concert orchestra. The crash was equally dynamic, responding superbly at medium to high volume levels, speaking quickly with shimmering dark, warm tones. This test left me feeling that I wish I owned a complete Artisan set-up. With limited numbers produced, you’ll need to get in early otherwise you might miss the boat. When these eventually come up for sale on the second hand market, you’ll need to re-mortgage your life to get hold of a set.

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Made in the Ridgeland, South Carolina custom drum shop, these solid maple snare drums include 30-degree bearing edges, 20-strand snare wires and coated Permatone batter head with an underside dot. This is the first time that Gretsch has offered single-ply wood snare drums. The G5000s are available in 5.5"x14" or 6"x13". Shells include solid maple reinforcement hoops to ensure true shell roundness.

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Blackman is a new endorsee to the Istanbul brand and it seems that this new association has clearly given her every opportunity to spread her wings creatively. The full range to date includes 15” hats, 16”, 18” and 20” crash plus a 22” ride. Firstly, Jazzwise tested the 15” hats and the 18” crash in a 30-piece big band setting to see if they could really cut the mustard and hold their own behind a full sax and horn section. Needless to say, the 15” hats are larger than the more common 13” and 14” and we were expecting plenty of volume –we weren’t disappointed. But it wasn’t just plain unabashed volume, it was volume with character, colour and charisma. These hats have a nicely defined “click” and when played half closed produced a lovely dark sound not unlike that heard in the recordings of the big bands in the 1930s and 40s. The 18” crash also came up trumps – a real revelation. It has a very dark, subtle sound and is not too overpowering. It’s in no way an aggressive cymbal and has a quick response that fades fast, so there is no question of the sound getting in the way. We also tested the hats and crash in a small combo situation, just to see if they might be too heavy. We would have felt more comfortable with a 14” pair of hats but the crash was just fine.

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