Dan Gottlieb

Sound Impressionist

By Bob O' Donnell

Though devotees of Cezanne, Monet, and Renoir
may object, the sounds which Danny Gottlieb draws from his
array of drums and cymbals are as colorful and as textured as
the Impressionistic masterpieces which earned those artists
fame. Skillfully blending the nearly infinite variety of colors
which a palette containing six sets of acoustic drums, four
types of electronic drums, and nearly 50 cymbals provides him
with, Glottlieb creates sound paintings of extraordinary depth
and beauty. Depending upon the context he finds himself in,
the moods which these paintings evoke range from profound
spiritual peace to thunderous activity and motion. But they all
bear the unque and colorful signature ofthe 32-year-old sonic
Gottlieb first came into national prominence while playing
with guitarist Pat Metheny, but he's currently dividing his time
between projects for two other guitar virtuosi, John McLaughin and Al Di Meola.
 He toured recently with McLaughlin and
the reformed Mahavishnu, replacing Billy Cobham, and he
just finished recording Di Meola's forthcoming record, Soaring
Through A Dream. His immediate future plans include record-
ing the next Mahavishnu album, doing a few dates with that
band, and then spending four months touring North and
South America, Europe, and Japan with Di Meola. In the
meantime, Gottlieb also managed to lend his artistry to two
Elements (see db, Feb. '84) co-members' solo albums, bassist
Mark Egan's Mosaic and reedman Bill Evans' Alternative Man.
Add the soundtrack for Blown Away, a windsurfing movie that
he and Egan are currently composing, and the multi-faceted
nature of Gottlieb's talent becomes apparent. But projects with
guitarists seem to be his primary passion.
"Somebody asked me once if I was ever a guitar player in a
past life," he playfully remarked, "but I don't know. It just
seems like I have great joy when I play with guitarists." The
reason for this, he believes, stems more from a sociological
phenomenon than a personal preference. "I think it's because
of the world I've grown up in, which is the era of the Beatles
and guitar-oriented music' He adds John Abercrombie, Bill
Frisell, and finger-tapping sensation Stanley Jordan to his
roster of guitar partners, but the triumvirate of Metheny,
McLaughlin, and Di Meola have played the most important
roles in his personal and artistic growth.
"It's certainly an amazing shock and a wonderful feeling to
have worked in this lifetime with such great musicians as Pat
Metheny, John McLaughlin, and Al Di Meola for starters, and
I'll include Mark Egan and Bill Evans as well because I think
they're tremendous musicians. But at the moment I'm really
enjoying both Al's group and John's, and I want to stay with
them as long as the schedules work out and the groups stay
together, because I see long-term growth for both of them."
His interest will remain, he claims, as long as he "never stops
growing and learning and enjoying the musicl'

The colorful textures which characterize Gottlieb's
sound began during his days at the University of
Miami, where he "leaned toward the more creative
end of playing," and they reached fruition during his
 six-year tenure with the Pat Metheny Group. Meth-
eny's lyrical explorations proved to be fertile ground
for sonic experimentation.
"Pat was very adamant about not doing anything that had
been created before. He wanted to produce a group sound
that was totally unique, and he was constantly reminding us
that he wanted you to play something that could sound typical,
but was not typical. The way that I applied this to the drums
was to go to the cymbals instead of heavy bottom and snare
drum. It wasn't a conscious thing; I just did it because it
seemed to fit musically.
"There was also a fine line here that I had to develop, which
was if I played too traditionally jazzy, like Elvin Jones, really
loose on the cymbal, it was way, way too loose because a lot of it
was straight eighth-note music. If I played it like the r&b/Billy
Cobham-style it was too forceful and too rigid. So there had to
be a fine line between looseness and heavy drumming. What I
did was to sort of emulate Airto's drumming on Chick Corea's
record Light As A Feather. I mean his name isn't even on the rec-
ord, but to me that was one of the strongest records that I was
influenced by as far as this type of drumming is concerned.
"But when I started playing with John McLaughlin I started
listening to all this Indian music," he quickly added. "I've been
doing some transcriptions and learning a lot about how
rhythms are broken down, and I've realized that a lot of it is not
cymbals, but drums and drum playing. It created a problem
for me because I was very top-ended and didn't use enough
bottom from the drums, so I started applying what I've
learned more specifically to the drums. I also started listening
to the heavier drummers, like Billy Cobham, and lots of
Indian drummers, especially the guys who played in Shakti
[with McLaughlin], Zakir Hussain, and a great percussionist
named Trilok Gurtu.
"And now with Di Meola it's a whole other thing. I have a
little bit of everything with Al, which means that a lot of it is
textural like Metheny, but some of it is intense like McLaughlin
because he's also got tremendous chops. Al does the melodic
thing as well, so his music fits between the two."
His cumulative development under these artists, and the
others he has recently performed with, has even further
refined his sonic brushwork, particularly with regard to cym-
bals. citing the work of Mel Lewis, Tony Williams, Jack De-
Johnette, and current teachers Joe Morello and Gary Chester
as other important influences, Gottlieb's cymbal technique
produces some of the richest hues on his palette.
"I'm very conscious of tonal colors and sounds when I'm
playing the drums, and the context that it all fits in. Relating to
the high end of the drums as much as I do and the type of
music that I sometimes play, it allows me to play in different
settings in a slightly different way than most people play, I
guess. What it does is give me more options. I have quite a few
cymbals, lots of different tonal colors, and just by loving
cymbals as much as I do, it has increased my awareness of those
options. A lot of times figures that could be typically played on
snare drum, bass drum, and hi-hat, I will play on the cymbals,
given the context that I'm playing in, because it creates a
different type of feeling and a different type of atmosphere.
Sometimes that approach works and is appropriate, and other
times it's not appropriate at all, but the more I play, the more I
become aware!'
In addition to using the existing natural colors of cymbals,
Gottlieb has begun creating new sounds of his own through
the wonders of electronic musical instruments. Like guitarists
Metheny, McLaughlin, and Di Meola, who have all become
proponents of the new Synclavier guitar, Gottlieb has em-
braced the possibilities which the new technology has made
available. [See the accompanying Pro Session on page 56 for
more information on his new electronic drum setup.]
"I find the electronics really intriguing," he said enthusi-
astically, "and I think it's a great time to be a musician just
because of the fact that there are so many new possibilities.'
His initial reaction to drum machines, however, was not as
positive. "In my last year or two with Metheny, Pat wanted to
use a drum machine live on stage and I, of course, in my usual
insecurity was thinking, 'Oh God, he wants the time to be
perfect and he's coming down on me.' So he gave me a drum
machine and he said, 'Danny, I'd like you to work with it and
use it' because he was using one himself
"I found that once in a while I'd get mad at it, mainly
because if I rushed the machine was right and I was wrong and
I'd get just a little pissed, but when we had good monitors on
stage and I could hear the drum machine, everything was fine.
I actually found that I grew to enjoy it, because I had a chance
to free myself up. I didn't have to play exactly what the
machine was playing, I could space out around it, play differ-
ent figures, and play a little looser while the machine kept a
steady groove."
Regarding other innovations in percussion, Gottlieb added,
"Mahavishnu was my first excuse to really get into electronic
drums. I had been looking for a situation and then when I
went over to Europe and worked with John and knew I was
going to continue playing with him, I went out and bought a
set of Simmons SDS-7's. My original reason for getting them
was because they allowed me to play very loud, but so easily. All
I had to do was tap the pad and crank it up real loud and voila,
I had Billy Cobham.
"That was why I got them, but what I didn't know was that I
was opening up a whole can of worms, because not only does
that particular instrument offer you an incredible array of
sounds, but it also opens up the whole question of how you
amplify and how you modify those sounds. It's a tremendous
amount of expense and a tremendous amount of time, but I
feel that exploring electronic drums is worthwhile because it
opens up some really great doors.'
In fact, the creative opportunities are nearly limitless, and
for Gottlieb this flexibility allows him to easily adapt his playing
to the different contexts he encounters. "With these two
groups, with Al and John, I can use electronics in radically
different ways. With John it's real powerhouse electronics and
with Al it's much more garnishes and subtleties, little additions
and tonal colors for the most part. But then again, those exist
in John's music too, and Al does have some rockers, so I guess
there are similarities. But in either case there's a chance to

Whether he chooses to express himself
through acoustic or electronic means,
the consistent character of Gottlieb's
playing stems from Danny Gottlieb the
human being. Unpretentious, open, and
extremely personable, Gottlieb goes out
of his way to credit the beneficial influence of people like his
junior high school band director, Morty Geist, and his very first
drum teacher, Meyer Sebold, in addition to all the drummers
he listened to and admired during the course of his musical
development. He's also willing to acknowledge the importance
of establishing relationships with the other people that he
performs with.
"I guess I get as taken with the human beings as I do the
music. There're some people that can just play with other
musicians without getting involved, and I guess what you have
to do in some contexts is just play the music, but I get wrapped
up in the personalities. I like to feel close to the people that I'm
working with. I feel it's really importantl'
Having spent most of the last year touring on and off with
John McLaughlin, Gottlieb's special affinity for the man is not
surprising. But the respect and admiration he holds for
McLaughlin can be traced to a particular time period, which
Gottlieb describes as "the most intense two weeks of my life."
Gottlieb01.gif (35820 byte)

IN THE STUDIO: (l to r) Scott Mabuchi, assistant engineer at New York's
Right Track Recording, Di Meola, and Gottlieb.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


"I have quite a few different drums and cymbals that I'm constantly
combining, changing, and adding to as different situations demand,"
according to Danny Gottlieb. "ln addition to acoustic drums and cymbals I
also have quite a bit of electronic equipment." [See the accompanying Pro
Session on page 56 for more information on this equipment.]
Danny's six sets of acoustic drums include two sets of Ludwig, which he
endorses, two sets of handmade Eames drums, and two sets of Yamaha Re-
cording Series drums. The Ludwig sets include14 x 20, 16 x18, 16 x 22, and
16x24 bass drums; 6x8, 7xlO, 8x12, 9xlO, 9x13, 11x12, 12x13,
13x14, 14x14, 16x16, and 16x18 toms; and 5x14 hand-hammered
chrome, 5 x 14 hand-hammered bronze, 8 x 14 coliseum and 8 x 14 coliseum
slotted snare drums. The Eames sets, all of which have birch drum shells and
Ludwig hardware, are of two types, one nine-ply Califomia red finish and one
12-ply blonde finish. The nine-ply set has a 14 x 24 bass drum; and 9x 8,
10x 10, 11 x12, 12 x13, 14 x14, 16 x16, and 16 x18 toms. The12-ply set has
14 x18,14 x 20, and14 x 22 bass drums; and 61h x10, 8 x12,10 x 10,10 x14,
12 x 12, 12 x16, 16 x15, 16 x16, and 16 x 18 toms. The snares, which are all
15-ply, are 5 x14, 51/2 x14, 7x14, and 8x14. The Yamaha sets are blonde
and sunburst.
Danny's cymbals are all Paiste, which he also endorses, and his collection
amounts to more than 50. Included among them are: a heavy 14-inch hi-hat,
Sound Edge14-inch hi-hat, 14-inch Sound Creation hi-hat with medium top
and heavy bottom, and a14-inch black Color Sound hi-hat; 20-, 22-, and 24-
inch medium and thin flat ride 602s, 22-inch heavy ride 2002, 22-inch bell ride
Sound Creation and 22-inch dark ride Sound Creation; 16 inch paper thin 602
crash, 22-inch paper thin 602 crash, 17-, 18-, and 20-inch medium 2002
crash, 16-inch Sound Creation New Dimension crash, 14-, 16-, 18-, 19-, 20-,
and 24-inch Rude crash; 16- and 18-inch China, 18- and 20 inch Sound
Creation China, 16-, 20, and 24-inch 2002 China, 18-inch Ride China, 16-,
20-, and 22-inch 2002 Novo China, 15-, 18-, and 20-inch 505 China; 11-inch
602 splash, 6-, 10-, and12-inch 2002 splash, 6, 10-, and 12-inch 505 splash;
8-, 10-, and13-inch heavy and regular Bell, and a10-inch 2002 Bell. Plus a set
of Sound Creation gongs.
So much for acoustic sounds. Electronically speaking, Danny uses
Dynacord Electronic Drums, which he endorses, Simmons SDS-7s, a Cooper
Sound Chest II, and an Oberheim DMX drum machine, and various
combinations of the following : Carvin 1686 board, Lexicon 200 Digital reverb,
MXR Digital Delay, lbanez Digital Delay, Valley People Dyna-mite noise gate,
a Yamaha Dx-7 synthesizer a Casio Cz 101 synthesizer. And a rack of New
Products (distributed by Europa Tech.) that includes a Quantec Room
Simulator Window Recorder, and Programmable Parametric Equalizer.
Regarding sticks and heads Gottlieb's list is equally lengthy. He uses
Ludwig, Vic Firh, Calato, and colored Hot Sticks in three different sizes, 58,
25, and 35. His drum head choices include Ludwig Silver Dots, Ludwig
Clears, Remo clear Ambassadors, Remo clear Diplomats and coated heads
for brushes.

He relates: "I had just come home [from the first Mahavishnu
tour] and I wasn't sure if I was going to get to continue because
I was only hired for that one tour, and John wasn't sure of what
he wanted to do. So, of course, I got real depressed and
thought, 'Oh God, I blew my chance,'because I had ap-
proached it the way I normally do, which is playing a lot of
colors and textures, and I got the sense that he needed
something more, but I didn't know what it was. Then he called
me later and said, 'Danny, listen, I'd like you to come back to
Europe and I want to work, just the two of us, and then we'll
continue and you're in the band. So I, of course, ran around
like a nut, freaking out, and then I flew over to Paris, he met
me, we drove down to Monte Carlo, where he lives. We rented
a rehearsal studio in Nice for two weeks, and he proceeded to
put me through quite an intense two weeks where we played
every day, six hours a day.
"The first week was incredibly hard and I wasn't really doing
very well, because we had to play all the songs we had played on
the road, but with just the two of us. I then realized he needed
something heavier, or as he put it, 'More passion from the
drums.' But then he started showing me a lot of where his
rhythmic concept was coming from, which is Indian music and
rhythms, and it opened up a whole new world for me, com-
pletely different. And one day I started to get a handle on it
and he heard it in my playing and we both started laughing. I
had found out what he was getting at, so the second week went
much better'
Gottlieb's enlightenment was not limited solely to new
musical ideas and rhythmic concepts, however. "The two
weeks I spent with John affected me as a human being, first of
all. I was so taken with his approach to life and music and how
he deals with it in his life that it was just a big revelation to be
around him. Something that he would say is that being a
musician you have to suffer; you have to go through intense
periods where things don't go right and it's just all part of it.
And one thing that he portrayed was a lot of patience and
understanding and a willingness to share his knowledge. I
found that incredibly inspiring.
"I also found he was a virtuoso musician and that was
inspiring enough right there. Plus the fact that he was so
heavily influenced by Indian drumming, music I found to be
quite interesting. We'd listen to Indian drummers and he'd
say, 'Danny, these are drummers talking to you in your
language, the drumsl And I said, 'You are so right, I can't
believe I've given such little priority to this type of drumming
and this type of music.'
Now, having been fully exposed to the fascinating complex-
ities of Indian music, Gottlieb has become one of its most
fervent students. He plans to examine it in further detail and
hopes to some day share some of his insights. " I'm hoping over
the years to do some really serious study. In fact, one of the
projects I'd like to do is work on a book with a couple of other
drummers. There's a drummer named Jamie Haddad who
studied with R. Raghavan, who was the mridangam player on
the first Shakti record, and we've talked about trying to write a
book along with Trilok on how to integrate these rhythms in an
Americanized kind of way.'
Gottlieb's future plans also include work which will allow
him to incorporate all the various influences he has recently
been exposed to. The primary outlet for these creative amal-
gamations will be Elements, the band he co-leads with bassist
Mark Egan. "I see tremendous growth for Elements, with
Mark, and [saxophonist] Bill [Evans] and [keyboardist] Cliff
[Carter]. I think it'll be a long-term thing where each of us will
be constantly playing with other people and then coming back
to Elements and playing, utilizing all the new things we've
"Another personal goal for me is a solo record, which I hope
to do in '86," he enthused. "The concept could go a lot of
different ways because I like so many different kinds of music.
Basically I want something that covers a wide variety of music
but makes my playing the unifying factor. I want to utilize lots
of tonal colors from acoustic drums of all sizes, lots of
percussion and cymbal colors, and I want to make as much use
of the electronics as I can because that's a whole other palette to
choose from.'
For the present, however, Gottlieb is quite satisfied to be
making music and creating sonic textures with both
McLaughlin and Di Meola. Like the many other artists with
whom he has worked, the two guitarists have provided him
with an opportunity for growth.
"Whenever you get around great musicians they all have
something to offer, and if you're open enough to pick up on it,
or just let yourself be open, you can really enjoy the experi-
ence. I mean it can be frustrating with any group at some
point, because when you have five people it's five people
painting a picture together at the same time. Yet these contexts
can be so rewarding because often there's plenty of space to do
your own thing. So I just feel grateful to have been around the
people that I have.' The feeling, undoubtedly, is mutual. 

Danny  Gottlieb's
Drum Technology

by Bob O' Donnell

Drum technology has not kept pace
with the rapid advancements that
keyboard synthesists have been able to
enjoy in recent years, but the trend has
begun to reverse. With the influence that
Simmons' electronic drums and the
LinnDrum have made on contemporary
music, more and more creative percus-
sionists are experimenting with the
many options which electronics provide;
this, in turn, has influenced the develop-
ment of new products. Danny Gottlieb
has immersed himself in this sea of tech-
nological marvels and finds the rewards
for doing so fascinating. He is par-
ticularly interested in the complex com-
binations that triggering/interface de-
vices allow for. "I'm just beginning to
realize how MIDI and other triggering
methods apply to the drums, how they
allow you to combine subtle little sounds
from a number of different sources. I've
yet to really test them out, but I'm imag-
ining the possibilities and it's going to be
Gottlieb's proposed electronic drum
system (he admits it's still in the develop-
ment stage) was designed by drummer/
engineer Vince Gutman, who also hap-
pens to manufacture, through his com-
pany Mirc, a self-designed triggering
device called the MXI. The heart of
Gottlieb's new setup, the MXI allows him
to trigger any sound source, including
electronic drum "brains," drum ma-
chines, or synthesizers, from any elec-
tronic drum pad or, via Gutman's Deto-
nator pickups, any acoustic drum.
Gutman explains, "With this system,
Danny's going to be able to take a variety
of different sound sources that he al-
ready owns, such as the Oberheim DMX
drum machine, a Simmons SDS7, a
Cooper Sound Chest II (modular drum
synthesizer), Dynacord drums, a Win-
dow Recorder (sampler), and a DX7 and
Casio CZ-101 synthesizer, and he'll be
able to trigger all of them, either individ-
ually or collectively, at will. In other
words, he can cut in and out of all those
devices and at any given time have all of
them triggering, only certain elements of
them triggering, or none of them trig-
gering via a footswitch that he'll have
right next to him. Everything that he'll be
using, be it an acoustic drum or an
electronic drum pad, will go through the
MXI system and be transformed at that
point into usable electronic status. As a
result, he'll be able to transfer all of his
dynamics either into MIDI, through the
MX-MIDI for the synthesizers and other
MIDI devices; or dynamic trigger pulses
for the Simmons and Dynacord; or non-
dynamic pulses for the DMX, which can
then be given dynamics by the MXE.'
'The accompanying chart, illustrating
the signal flow that Gutman was refer-
ring to, should make the system a bit
easier to comprehend. 
Gottlieb02.gif (87684 byte)
Hitting either an
electronic drum pad or an acoustic drum
with a Detonator pickup attached to it
produces an electronic pulse which is
sent to the MXI. At this point, because of
varying manufacturers' specifications,
each pulse will be individually altered by
the MXI to properly trigger the various
electronic drum sounds. From here the
various pulses are sent to the rack-
mounted Logic Switching Distribution
Controller, remotely controlled by a foot-
switch, through which Gottlieb will
determine the sound sources to be used.
From there the chosen trigger pulses are
sent to their respective destinations. The
audio from each of these sources then
travels to two Carvin mixing boards,
which will also be located within Gott-
lieb's reach.
The non-dynamic audio of the DMX,
however, is first sent to the MXE where it
is mixed with dynamic signals from the
MXI to create dynamic audio before
being sent to the mixers. Similarly, sig-
nals from the MXI are sent to the MX-
MIDI which, in turn, triggers the syn-
thesized drum-like patches on the two
synthesizers before being sent to the
mixing boards. Once at the boards, Gott-
lieb will process these signals through a
Lexicon 200 digital reverb, a Quantec
room simulator, and a Valley People Dy-
namite noise gate/limiter before having
them sent to the speakers.
The creative possibilities (and poten-
tial problems) of this system are almost
frightening and Gottlieb admits that he
is a bit concerned. "I'm a little worried, to
tell you the truth, because there's a lot to
think about. I'm going to have to spend
some serious time with this equipment,
and it's not going to come easy. Of course,
I can get a basic sound and mess around
and have some fun, but to really find
what wtorks well is definitely going to take
a lot of time. For the rest of our lives we're
going to be working on sounds, but then
again, why not? What else is there really?
I mean, we are trying to make music.'