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Gearhead: Danny Gottlieb’s Hot Sticks

Whether playing acoustic or electronic drums, one piece of gear is always in his hands

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Danny Gottlieb
Danny Gottlieb (photo: courtesy of the artist)

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.” 

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Emile Menasché

Musician, journalist, and author Emile Menasché has composed soundtracks for Oscar- and Emmy-nominated documentaries. He is jealous that his dog Hudson gets more attention from passersby whenever they’re seen in public together.