BY AJ DONAHUE
The Winter issue of Drum! features a full review of Crescent Cymbals’ Element series, in which we discuss a bit of Crescent’s history and their partnership with Sabian for production and distribution. In addition to the Element cymbals featured in that piece, the company sent over a couple of artist signature sets for us to check out. For this installment, we’ll be taking a look at and listening to the current editions of Stanton Moore’s signature series.
As one of the preeminent ambassadors of New Orleans’ historic and modern sounds, Moore needs a set of cymbals that’s representative of the city’s storied history, but versatile enough to handle the enormous range of music it produces. That’s a tough ask. Let’s see if the updated versions of Moore’s line are up to the job.
DISTINCT AND DYNAMIC
I met Stanton Moore about 12 years ago when he was leading a trio at a punk club in north Florida, not long after the first version of his signature cymbal series was released. We had a few minutes to speak, and while talking about technique, drums, music history, and all the normal stuff a drum geek like me would want to pester an icon like that about, I asked him if playing his signature gear every night ever made him feel confined by those sounds. I basically asked him if he ever got sick of his own thing.
He looked at me like I asked if he wanted to go halfsies on a bowl of spiders and worms for dinner.
It was a lame question for a lot of reasons, but most of all because the dude plays a whole lot of different music and he had accordingly designed a series of cymbals that includes a lot of different sounds and options. In addition to his regular gigs with Galactic and his own groups, Moore has put in time with Corrosion of Conformity, Trombone Shorty, DJ Shadow, and Tom Morello, among others. That’s some real range, so it should come as no surprise that our guy helped assemble a family of instruments capable of handling a bunch of wildly different jobs.
Moore helped update this series back in 2016, shortly after Crescent’s partnership with Sabian solidified. The goal was to continue using the same traditional, hands-on techniques utilized by the Turkish foundries originally employed by Crescent, but to make the cymbals more available with Sabian’s production scale and distribution channels. Per Moore’s account, Sabian’s lead hammerers were actually producing too clean and consistent a product, so he asked them to push the boundaries a little further to give each cymbal more character.
The resulting set includes 14″ and 15″ hi-hats, 16″ and 18″ crashes, 20″ and 22″ rides, a sort of China-type/crash blend called a Pang Thang, and the ultra-explosive Trash Crash, which I don’t really know how to classify. All are forged from B20 bronze, and feature finely lathed tops, wide-band lathing underneath, and dense applications of small and medium hammering from the base of the bell all the way out to the edge. The cymbals are mostly medium-thin in weight, and have unpolished tops and bottoms for a classically understated look.
LET’S SEE HOW THEY PLAY
There is a whole lot to hear in this series. I was expecting a group of extra dark and trashy instruments, but was surprised to find a more significant balance of clean and sparkling tones mixed in. The 14″ and 15″ Fat Hats have some of the tight, ticking attack I anticipated, but also respond with slightly more cutting ting on top. Both models are on the drier side, and have tight foot chicks that snap more than bark. They open up broadly in the lower and middle registers, but don’t have quite enough sharp, high qualities to really overwhelm the ear. I thought the 15″ hats in particular recorded beautifully, delivering equal parts smoke and sparkle. They’re a great set of go anywhere, do anything hats.
The 16″ and 18″ Smash Crashes have low profiles and thin edges that combine to create quick, explosive punches that cinch up right away. They’re low and breathy with a satisfyingly soft pop. I’m not normally a fan of 16″ crashes, but found the Stanton model really enjoyable. Those thin edges seem to add some depth to the note which keeps it (and the 18″) from sounding papery even under heavy strikes–or smashes, I guess.
While the different sizes of hats and crashes play like variations on the same sounds, the 20″ and 22″ Wide Rides stand a little further apart from one another. Both models speak with clear, defined stick notes and darkish spreads underneath. Both have low, semi-wide bells with a rich ding and enough cut to hang in loud situations. The 20″ responds to taps on the bow with more ping and bounce on top, and a slightly more subdued wash sitting below the stick, While, the 22″ really lives up to its “Wide” moniker. I hear a darker stick sound and a much more prominent wash that sits closer to the attack. It reminds me of beautiful big band cymbal with a little extra meat in the middle of the note.
Alright, let’s get to the weirdos. In addition to the more conventional sounds available in the Stanton set, the Pang Thang and Trash Crash models offer fresh takes on China-type sounds.
The 20″ Pang Thang sits about halfway between a paper thin ride and a China cymbal. It’s got an otherwise standard thin ride-type profile with a 2″-wide flange around the edge. The flange doesn’t turn up quite as significantly as on most Chinas, but instead almost levels flat. It’s a little more aggressive than I anticipated, but still ridable like a standard pang. Striking the edge or the bow pulls out a roaring, trashy wash, but there’s just enough stick sound to keep each note afloat. There’s a lot of typical China sound here, but a lot more to offer as well.
The Trash Crash is a wild, punching accent cymbal that plays unlike any cymbal I’ve experienced before. It looks like a typical 20″ thin-ish crash with a low profile and a small bell, but it’s trashed up with the addition of six little bowls created by heavy hammering clusters near the outer edge. The pockets are about 2.5″ wide, and drop maybe a 1/4″ below the playing surface. Crashing the cymbal results in an explosive bwah that’s equal parts China, crash, and wind gong. In a musical context, some of that complexity is lost to the surrounding noise, so it fits in like a slightly mellowed China. And as a bonus, striking the cymbal with a stick tip in those pockets pulls out some really exotic and expressive notes. I had a lot of fun exploring what the Trash Crash had to offer.
Moore’s signature Crescent cymbals have a lot to handle. They have to speak with the voice of a guy who many in the drumming community consider an emissary of New Orleans’ musical history, while also offering enough versatility to handle an insane variety of music. I found them to be better suited to the latter. They lean clean and slightly controlled with some beautiful smokiness underneath, and they’re more than capable of handling everything from piano trio bop to loud rock. There’s certainly character here—especially in the Pang Thang and Trash Crash outliers—but overall I wanted more funk and fire. These are beautiful cymbals that will serve a lot of drummers very well, but I just wish they were a bit wilder and trashier across the board. To be fair, that might be because when I think of New Orleans I think of as dancing and parades with vibrant, kinetic music. But of course, that’s only one part of the city’s incredible musical history, and these cymbals are designed to handle that and a whole lot more.
Fine lathing on top
Wide lathing underneath
Pang Thang has a normal crash cymbal profile with a 2″ moderate China-type flange at the edge
Trash Crash has normal crash cymbal profile with six 2.5″ wide heavily hammered depressions near the edge
14″ Stanton Moore Fat Hats $790.00
15″ Stanton Moore Fat Hats $871.00
16″ Stanton Moore Smash Crash $475.00
18″ Stanton Moore Smash Crash $558.00
20″ Stanton Moore Pang Thang $660.00
20″ Stanton Moore Trash Crash $660.00
20″ Stanton Moore Wide Ride $641.00
22″ Stanton Moore Wide Ride $764.00