Nothing screams “jazz” like an 18" bass drum. For some bebop jazz drummers, it’s all they ever play. Gretsch has created a new line of kits that feature small bass drums, matching wood snares, covered finishes, and entry level pricing. They call it the Catalina Club series. With their classic styling and fine sound, they should prove popular with drummers looking for an affordable, dedicated kit for jazz, drum ’n’ bass, or other gigs requiring portability and low volume. Let’s take a look at them.
Two versions of this kit are available. One includes a 16" x 16" bass drum, 8" x 6" and 10" x 7" rack toms, 13" x 13" inch floor tom, with a 12" x 5" snare, that seems geared towards drum ’n’ bass or hip-hop music. The kit I reviewed is definitely the jazz version of the set. It comprised an 18" x 16" bass drum, 12" x 8" mounted tom, 14" x 14" floor tom, and a matching 14" x 5" snare, with a full complement of Gibraltar hardware.
There are some similarities and differences between these drums and the traditional Gretsch jazz drum sets you may know. These Catalina Club drums have 6-ply 100-percent mahogany shells, and not maple/gum shells for you Gretsch purists. Like many, but not all of their recent kits, these drums have Gretsch’s classic 30-degree bearing edges. The rounder bearing edges increase the size of the contact area between head and shell, and transmit more vibration to the shell, increasing the drum’s resonance. No silver sealer was on the interior of these shells.
Mahogany is known for its warm rich tone, and these drums have those characteristics in spades, but without sounding muddy. They didn’t lack brightness and attack though. I found the sound balanced and appropriate for jazz or rock.
All these drums have center-mounted, low mass lugs. The mounted tom uses a GTS suspension mount for added sustain. The rims are 1.6mm stamped steel hoops rather than the die-cast hoops Gretsch made popular. Regrettably, there are only three Nitron covered finishes available to select from, White Marine, Black Marine, and Silver Sparkle. The kit I reviewed had the classic White Marine finish.
There is a “Made In Taiwan” sticker on each square Gretsch badge, like you might find on the bottom of a curio. This is a tacky, but legal requirement. If these were my drums, I’d peel them off at the first opportunity.
Evans manufactured the Gretsch Permatone heads on the set. The bass drum comes with a set of pre-muffled heads that have a ring around their circumference. The bass drum batter head is clear while the logo head is white with no port. There were coated single-ply heads on the snare and tom batters, with clear resonant-side heads underneath.
The single-lug, center-mounted design on each of these drums adds to the retro look of the kit. Reducing the amount of hardware on the shell should also increase the resonance of each drum. On the bass drum, which has much longer tension rods, this design requires that you take a moment or two to make sure the tension rods are completely straight. Once I put the heads and hardware on the bass drum, I found I had to redo the placement of the bass drum claws to keep the rods aligned. Otherwise, it looks a little … well, goofy. I noticed that one of the bass lugs in the catalog photo could have benefited from a little more placement care. All the other drums have hoops, which obviously keep the screws straight.
The bass drum was equipped with telescopic spurs and retractable spikes to adhere it to any type of flooring. The maple bass drum hoops have a smooth satin finish that looks very nice. The drum had a nice sound when tuned high that would work well on a jazz gig. Tuned lower the drum had a decent depth but being so small, it obviously didn’t put out a lot of volume. At this tuning, it would work nicely in a pop group at a quieter gig. I didn’t have the opportunity to try porting the head or miking the drum, but the heads have an internal muffling ring which did a good job of balancing the drum’s attack-to-ring ratio. No additional muffling was needed.
It’s remarkable that they include a matching wood snare at this price point. The snare strainer is a side throw-off model seen on many Gretsch snares. It worked quietly and well, holding the 20-strand Gretsch wires in place. The snare drum had a wide tuning range. Tuned low, with the snares looser, it sounded like a much larger drum, with a tubby tone that would work great on a ballad. As I raised the pitch, the crispness increased. Up high, the drum had good sensitivity. Overall, the snare had good rimshots, crispness, and a woody tone. The rim-click was a little subdued for my liking. The drum doesn’t have die-cast hoops, so the best rim-click was found by striking the hoop directly over a tension screw. I found the drum responded nicely to brushes too. I liked this drum and think it’s a fine sounding, yet inexpensive wood snare.