When your résumé includes recording and touring with the likes of the Pat Metheny Group, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, the Manhattan Transfer, and many others, it’s a given that you’ll be equipped to nail the sound for each setting. But over a career spanning five decades, percussionist and author Danny Gottlieb can cite thousands of times where he’s had to travel light—which means carrying only his most important tools. “Almost every gig [outside the big names]—which is probably somewhere in the 5,000 range—has been on a rented or provided drum set,” he said during a break from some Nashville session work.
So if you’re going to sit behind a kit someone else has chosen, what do you need to make it your own? “It’s really two things,” says Gottlieb, who recently co-authored Harold Jones: Interpretation of Big Band Swing Drumming, exploring Jones’ iconic work with the Count Basie Orchestra. “If the music allows for my personal creative stamp, then I must have a flat ride cymbal. It’s a touch I developed in the Pat Metheny Group through the influences of Bob Moses and Airto Moreira, and it’s become something of a signature sound. I have a variety of sizes, custom-made by Zildjian.”