Tony Williams Cymbals – the story

Tony Williams’ Cymbals were iconic, no doubt.  The story behind the creation of the replicas is magnificent.


A person can’t help but feel nostalgic when reflecting on Mehmet Tamdegar’s and Colleen Williams’ project to recreate the sounds of the precious cymbals played by Tony Williams.  Mehmet Tamdegar is the owner of the Istanbul Mehmet Company in Turkey and Colleen Williams is none other than the wife of the late Tony Williams.  Back when Tony was playing with Miles Davis’ Quintet in the 60’s, Tony set the bar high … a bar that drummers continue trying to reach today.

“There ain’t but one Tony Williams when it comes to playing the drums.  There was nobody like him before or since.” – Miles Davis


This year, eighteen years after this masterful drummer passed on, replicas of Tony William’s prized cymbals will come out in limited quantity.  Only 250 replica sets were created and they’re numbered, creating even more buzz and more sense of scarcity.  Dealers are climbing over each other to get their hands on these works of art and wouldn’t you know it, every set apportioned for US consumers is already spoken for, as I learned yesterday from my contact at the Istanbul Mehmet Company.

So, what makes these cymbals so special, you might ask?  Is it because of the “drier, darker, trashier sounds” they produce?  Is it because Tony’s mentor, the great Max Roach gave them to the drummer in the first place?  Well, probably, but it’s also because the sound they produce is iconic.  So iconic that Tony continued playing them long after many would have retired them to the memorabilia case.  They were cracked, had been drilled multiple times to stop cracks, chunks had been knocked off of them, and they were still his prized cymbals that he wasn’t going to stop using.  The scars on these treasures only added to their amazing sound and Istanbul Mehmet took it upon themselves to match those acquired sounds without Tony there to play them into submission.

Now, what types of cymbals are we actually talking about?  The four cymbals we are talking about include a 22” Ride, an 18” Crash and a set of 14” Hi Hats.  All masterfully scarred by years of playing, creating distinct and one-of-a-kind sounds.


  • The Ride – “a unique combination of dry, clean stick sound, with complex, dark, orchestral overtones” (excerpt from the Istanbul Mehmet brochure) –  is the one that had multiple keyholes to stop the cracks from spreading.  It was also missing a large chunk off of one side – literally, large chunks flew off while Tony was playing from time to time … and it still sounds GREAT!  In fact, most would argue that the wear and tear improved the sound of the cymbal.
  • The Crash – The artisans at Istanbul Mehmet Company recreated the sounds that years of wear and tear created over time on the Crash as well.  Just like the Ride, the Crash had cracks; funny enough, these cracks caused no buzz in the sound of the cymbal at all.  What the cracks did do to this piece was accelerate the decay of the crash sound.  Staying true to the project, the makers used extra hammering and lathing to recreate this effect so that the replica also has this built-in “attenuator”, which accelerates the decay of the crash.
  • The Hi Hats – without cracks and chunks missing from them, these must have been the easiest pieces to replicate because they were the first of the set to be approved.  They do look stunning and fit together beautifully as they are crafted to nest together like the originals did due to years of playing.

Simply amazing … for this extraordinary set to be replicated in the first place is a great task to be taken on, since the originals were crafted sometime in the 50’s, but for the original set to be replicated with all of its acquired flaws to sound just like those that Tony played for years is unprecedented.  Now, remember who Mehmet Tamdegar is?  An entertaining thought to ponder is that Mehmet Tamdegar, owner of the Istanbul Mehmet Company, was working in the Turkish factory where Tony’s original cymbals were made.  He was ten years old at the time and was just starting as an apprentice.  Now, some six decades later, Mehmet Tamdegar has replicated those same cymbals in his own factory.

See, I told you it was nostalgic!

More nostalgia:  Tony’s wife Colleen personally hand carried the original cymbals to Istanbul, Turkey so that master artisans could recreate them.

And some more: Istanbul Mehmet Company pulled the original, antique cup dies from their archives to be used once again.  The very same dies used on the original cymbals!

We’d love to read your comments – tell us what you’re thinking about this release. I’ve seen some naysayers on some forums but I’m curious if knowing the story behind the project makes a difference.  For those of you who can’t resist and absolutely must own a set of these cymbals, give us a shout.  We have one set coming in and it won’t last long.Tony-Williams-Cymbals---original

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