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Phase Dancing: Gottlieb, Wertico, Sanchez—The Art of Drumming in the Pat Metheny Group


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The drummer is the leader of every band. It doesn’t matter whose name is on the marquee. Drummers are the key to everything, and the best ones know it.
—Pat Metheny
It was 1978 when I first heard "Phase Dance" on Bay Area jazz station KJAZ from a new band called the Pat Metheny Group (PMG). The music didn't just blow me away, it also spoke to me on such a deep level. Little did I know, it would stay with me forever. What the PMG did for many of us young, aspiring musicians was to open up new musical vistas that were relevant to the times. It was like they were the roadmap of where we were trying to go with the music. They gave us the fresh perspective we were searching for within ourselves. It was not jazz in the traditional sense like bebop or mainstream but beneath it all, lived and breathed an authenticity of that tradition. It was hard to describe. It had its own feel and attitude with a new kind of swing. Melodic soloing, drama and harmony were all weaved into masterful compositions. The Pat Metheny Group was revolutionary. If you were around back then, you know exactly what I'm talking about and if not, fortunately, you can listen for yourself to discover what made the PMG so brilliant.

For those who need a refresher, the Pat Metheny Group was a quartet formed in 1977 featuring guitarist Pat Metheny, keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb. The group's musical identity was shaped by the virtuosic playing of Metheny and Mays and their unique collaborative compositions that combined various styles and influences including jazz, classical, pop, rock, Brazilian and more. The group recorded and toured extensively from 1977-2010, selling millions of albums, playing to huge audiences, reshaping jazz and earning 11 Grammy Awards.

Recently, I listened chronologically to every PMG recording including Pat's Watercolors album which marked the first official recorded work featuring Lyle and Pat together. My intent was not to take a trip down memory lane but rather immerse myself in an active exercise to re-listen and rediscover those albums I loved— to see how they stand up today. By the time I finished the group's final work (The Way Up), the music didn't just stand up, it stood out, and was even better than I originally remembered it.

One of the many highlights this time around was really noticing how inventive, precise and exciting the drumming was from Danny Gottlieb, Paul Wertico and Antonio Sanchez. These musicians not only enhanced that music but also showcased a creatively rich and innovative artistic approach to drumming. In my opinion, not enough has been stated about how much the groundbreaking and dynamic playing of Danny, Paul and Antonio's work in the PMG has contributed to the state of modern jazz drumming.

A Drumming Perspective...

As I began thinking about how to best characterize these drummers, I wanted to pull back from the PMG drumming microscope and get a basic understanding about the demands on the drummer to play in a band like the PMG. I first wanted a general perspective and understanding on drumming in a band so I asked the brilliant Vinnie Colaiuta whose credentials include Frank Zappa, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Sting, Joni Mitchell and many others. As Vinnie explained, "In order to be effective in the drum chair of any band, you first need an internal belief within yourself and a desire to want to be successful." He emphasized that you must know and understand the music you are playing. He continued, "I think that the approach is similar to really playing any instrument. You're developing the sensibilities that you really believe you already have because if you recognize it and if you're able to recognize greatness in music in general, you're halfway there. Then, the question is just developing how to execute. You also want to get to that point, where it's you and it's not even a destination because now you're always in process. You're also trying to hone your sensibilities so that you can actually execute what it is you're able to understand. So, when you're talking about the PMG, you're talking about three different drummers over a period of time and a period of change. That part of it had Pat, most likely, recognizing each one of these player's identity. It's like casting. That's like, 'I like the way this guy plays and I want to inject that guy's personality into the music' and so on." Vinnie concludes, "When you're playing with artists like Pat and Lyle, you're talking about a high level of composition and improvisation, and there's a dynamic involved. You have to understand how that works in real time."

Now as we sharpen our focus more into the specifics of jazz drumming across the evolution of the PMG, I asked the extraordinary Peter Erskine. He was not only an eyewitness to the PMG from the start but also was a colleague and contributed in the evolution of jazz drumming itself during the same period in two of the most world-renowned jazz groups of the era: Weather Report and Steps Ahead. Peter also played and recorded with both Pat and Lyle, so his insights into the drummer's perspective in the PMG comes not only from observation but from direct participation. He offers us a great snapshot of history into the world of jazz drumming during one of its most fruitful periods.

All About Jazz: Can you discuss how drumming was evolving in bands like Weather Report, Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, Steps Ahead and PMG during the late '70s into the '80s and beyond?

Peter Erskine: The evolution in drumming was more of a revolution, and it took root in the early mid-to-late 1960's through the early 1970s. Metheny Group drummers Danny Gottlieb and Paul Wertico were my generation, and we were all informed and inspired by the pioneering work of Tony Williams, Eddie Marshall, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Cobham, Lenny White, and the revolving door of Weather Report drummers such as Alphonse Mouzon, Eric Kamau Gravatt, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Chester Thompson, and Alex Acuña (plus the drummers on WR's Mysterious Traveler album, Ishmael Wilburn and Skip Hadden). So, to my ears, it all began with Tony on the Miles in the Sky album plus Eddie Marshall with the Fourth Way group. The horizontal swung triplet (a/k/a the legato eighth-note) met the vertical straight eighth-note... and we were off to the races.

Drums were being recorded and mixed with far more presence than before (Roy Haynes' drum sound on Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, is a good example). Drummers were also eschewing the double-stroke standard for the more muscular single-stroke technique and approach to music (Lenny White and Jack DeJohnette being notable exceptions). What am I saying? Billy Cobham broke the sound barrier, pretty much.

I mentioned Alex Acuña, and his contributions cannot be overlooked: He was the first real timbalero to play fusion music, and in combination with Jaco Pastorius's conguero-influenced bass patterns, the Heavy Weather epoch was some of the most refreshing music I have ever heard to this day... and "refreshing" is not a word that's normally associated with fusion.

AAJ: With regards to playing with Weather Report and Steps Ahead, what did you find as the greatest challenges of playing the drums in a dynamic band on a big stage night after night?

PE: Weather Report was loud, but I came into that band with a muscular background of having toured for two years with Maynard Ferguson's big band, which was also loud. The loudness prevented my immature mind from being able to execute much of the more subtle drumming forms that we all heard the younger Tony and Gravatt play; that is, a four-piece kit. So, there was a technical challenge-meets-musical goal post that was often out of reach. Weather Report was a university of sorts for me. Steps Ahead was a soft group haven for me when I joined. It was my chance to play and function as a jazz drummer—fusion echoes or influences aside. The tension within that group was my wanting to play less like Weather Report in terms of volume while the band was veering towards Weather Report. I did manage to bring some of Weather Report's improvisational and production ethos into the Steps—later known as Steps Ahead—universe. To answer the question another way: The challenge was always to find the best and most musical solution. That solution was often out of my grasp.

AAJ: As far as specific drumming skills are concerned, what is required of you to be successful in a band whose repertoire is both composed and improvised?

PE: The drums need to provide rhythmic information while making the music dance. Same requirement for any band or musical setting. It all comes down to listening.

AAJ: You have worked with both Pat and Lyle, can you share your insights as to how they work with drummers?

PE: Pat is a genius, Lyle was a genius. My work with both was rather limited. Pat knows what he likes. Pat's genius, from where I sit, is in his leadership abilities as well as his having been able to call his own shots for all of his career. Plus, he's an incredible musician. Lyle's genius was in his compositions. He was one in many a million.

AAJ: In terms of the three drummers in Pat Metheny Group (Danny, Paul, Antonio), what has impressed you about these musicians?

PE: Danny, Paul and Antonio have all been the drummer who needed to be in the Group when they were in the band. It's hard to imagine any of the music that one of them played at that moment in time being played by another.

Danny paid his dues while creating the drumming language of the PMG (the touring in that van was incessant). Paul was the perfect foil and rhythm section mate for Steve Rodby and he realized Pat's specific cymbal goals beautifully. Meanwhile, Antonio is one of those drummers whose approach was so fresh and unique, he proved to be a tremendously suitable and exciting addition to the Metheny Group body of work and legacy... and he continues to innovate.

A Bass-Ic Perspective...

Who knows a drummer better in a band than the bassist? Bassist Steve Rodby joined the group in 1981 and worked very closely with Pat and Lyle during the band's tenure. He played with all three drummers in the group and had this to say about the role of the drummer in the PMG:

"I've heard Pat say many times that drummers are the real leaders in any band, and he's referencing both the incredible power that the drums have to control and influence the outcome of improvised music, and also I think his own personal requirements in a way. Drumming is immeasurably important to the aesthetic success of music. If you just look at the drummers that he's played with, both in and outside of the Group, it's obvious that he's set the bar incredibly high. And that presents a real challenge because the style of this music is very unusual and not what many other bands were playing at the time. Not what most drummers were studying at the time. And the style itself, different with every tune, was as essential as the notes themselves. So there weren't and aren't a lot of drummers who could fit in, make it their own."

"It's hard to go back in time and hear things like we did decades ago, but in my way of looking at it, there were a whole bunch of us in the early and mid '70s who were sort of focused on Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, that straight eighth note zone combining previous jazz values with some of the more current popular music vocabulary. I admired that music so much, and it spoke to me as an absolute continuation of the earlier jazz we'd all loved. The Group's sound and music was yet a further continuation. So the drum parts were about being able to play straight eighth note improvisatory music, complex tunes and extended forms with a strong narrative quality. They had to tell a story through every melody and every single chorus. Huge focus on dynamics and shape. The drumming style in the Pat Metheny Group was different from playing drums in almost any other group around at the time."

Steve concludes, "I also think there was enormous pressure on that position because Pat and Lyle, but especially Pat, very much keyed in on it for energy, for propulsion, for inspiration, and that had to be there on a night-by-night and tune-by-tune basis. It wasn't a theoretical thing. Danny and Paul and Antonio are such different and unique individuals, drummers, musicians, but among the things they have in common is their brilliant rendering of this beautiful music—in all its facets—not just nailing the drum parts but defining them and owning them. They were a total joy to play with. I feel lucky, and grateful."

From the Throne Itself...

Suffice it to say, there was a lot happening in the music at the start of the PMG which reflected the unique and challenging specificities of the drum chair. What was it like being in the PMG? What challenges existed in the music? How did the drumming evolve in the music? What was the ride like? We explore these questions and more with the PMG's drummers: Danny Gottlieb, Paul Wertico and Antonio Sanchez.

Danny Gottlieb (1977-1983)

ALBUMS: Pat Metheny Group, American Garage, Offramp and Travels

"To me, the way the drums work in the group is way up on the list of what makes us sound the way we sound. Stylistically, it's much closer to Elvin's type of playing than to the metronome kind of time-keeping. The three of us hold the time together more, and Gotts just goes playing over the top of it." —Pat Metheny

All About Jazz: Prior to the PMG, can you talk about the influence of Pat, Gary Burton, Bob Moses and Eberhard Weber and how that helped shape your drumming?

Danny Gottlieb: Prior to the forming of the PMG, I did a lot of ensemble and duo playing with Pat. When he left Miami to teach at Berklee, and then to join Gary Burton's group, we continued to play gigs. I followed Pat around hearing him frequently with Rakalam Bob Moses and Jaco both in trio settings and with Gary Burton. I was (and still am) so in love with Rakalam's playing and I really listened to him so much. He was the first person I ever heard with a flat ride cymbal, and I remember one gig where he had three flat ride cymbals. I was so influenced by his playing and had played or heard much of the material on Bright Size Life before it was recorded. I remember we were all so proud of Pat making that album. And I remember thinking that it was my dream that someday I would get to play on one of Pat's albums. Little did I know I would be playing on the follow-up album, Watercolors.

Prior to doing the Watercolors recording was really important in my life. Pat recommended me for Gary Burton's group after Rakalam left and as it turned out, I auditioned and got the gig. I was actually the only one who auditioned because I had played with Pat and knew all of the tunes that the group performed. And as much of it was straight eighth note music in concept, very similar in feel to the Metheny Group's original music, I had developed a way to play straight eighth note music in that context. Other drummers that were so influential in that style were Tony Williams (his playing on Maiden Voyage and Miles' tracks), and Airto Moreira's playing especially with the original Return to Forever.

After joining Gary's group, and performing on my first ever recording (Passengers), Pat asked me to play on Watercolors. The great bassist Eberhard Weber was a guest on Gary's Passengers, and as it turned out he had a tour in January 1977 and his drummer at the time, John Marshall, was not able to do it. Eberhard asked me to do the tour and Pat decided to use us both on the Watercolors recording after we finished Eberhard's tour which gave us a two-week window to perform together as a rhythm section just about every day. Following the tour, Eberhard and I flew to Norway and recorded Watercolors. I love that album and it was a great thrill to be on it.

AAJ: When the group formed and Pat and Lyle were writing the material for the first album, were you given specific drum parts?

DG: As Pat and I had been playing together for many years at that point, there was a kind of organic way that the songs evolved and developed. We had started playing together in a student/ faculty group at the University of Miami in 1972. Through school playing and in that group, most small group tunes were written in lead sheet form with maybe the chord changes and a guide to rhythm section parts on a separate line. If you look in the original Real Book at Chick Corea's "Sea Journey," Pat's "Bright Size Life" or "April Joy," you can see the melody on one staff and a guide to rhythm section rhythms and specific bass lines on another line. From what I remember, many of the tunes started as fragments with some rhythms written, but never a specific drum part.

AAJ: Can you talk about your process in terms of creating "feels" for the early PMG?

DG: At that point, I had been playing many straight eighth note tunes and feels, and would usually start with a feel on the spur of the moment as I felt it. If Lyle or Pat liked that approach, that was fine. If they had a specific feel in mind, they might say maybe play less busy, or this tune has an "Elvin" feel, or the groove doesn't feel exactly right, can you try something else? It was very open and I was free to try things. I might play and try a different way from night to night, or at rehearsal, like starting a solo on brushes or a different cymbal depending on the acoustics. Many times, in the beginning, I might have forgotten what I played in the previous rehearsal but Lyle and Pat would be vocal both if they liked something or didn't like a specific part, and then I would try something different.

DG: The other aspect, especially in the original group, was that I had best friend and amazing bassist Mark Egan as a rhythm section partner. We had been friends and rhythm section mates for years, also meeting at the University of Miami, and we would often discuss a tune just by ourselves. We would ask each other what part we were playing on a specific section and would try to work out something between ourselves that felt the best and would help us function as one rhythm section unit. We were much more vocal about the music to each other then with Pat or Lyle, and we would fix or edit parts so that the two of us felt comfortable playing a groove. For example, Mark might feel I was playing too much cymbal and not enough bass drum to support his part, or something in the bass drum might be inconsistent with what he was playing. I really trusted (and still trust) Mark's musical instincts, and often would start the approach to a tune based around what he felt for a bass part, and then come up with something that could embellish the feel. So it was really my teamwork with Mark that helped shape those feels.

AAJ: As time went on, how much impact did Pat and Lyle have on your approach to the music?

DG: As the group developed, there certainly were tunes where Pat or Lyle might direct a specific approach, but a lot of the comments were based on the feel as we performed, not so much a specific drum part. If the rhythm section didn't feel good on a specific song, or it wasn't comfortable to play on a particular groove, Pat would let me know there was something that wasn't working for him. For example, if I played too many crashes on the downbeat at the top of a chorus, or if it felt like it was rushing.

But for some new songs or feels, I remember Pat would give an explanation of what he was thinking. For example, I remember Pat having us rehearse the song "Offramp" in the studio, and I was confused about what he was hearing as it was free with that guitar synth sound playing the melody. I remember Pat saying it should sound like different painters painting freely on the same canvas, starting at a different point on the canvas, but criss crossing each other until the canvas was filled. It seemed unexpected at the time, but I did my best to help the music work.

On some songs, I used a drum feel that I liked for inspiration. For example, on the recording "The Search" (from American Garage), I was inspired by Grady Tate's playing on the song "Con Alma" from Stan Getz's Sweet Rain album. For "Jaco," I had been listening to a lot of Steve Jordan (with whom Mark Egan would play with frequently in New York City), and he was the inspiration for that track. A few songs just flowed. I remember the track "Au Lait" and I don't think I even had a drum part. I remember just playing the track with my eyes closed, and it might have even been one take. I don't think I even knew what time changes were in the song, I just flowed over it.

"Danny was a very sensitive and empathetic drummer. He is a great guy, sweet soul and was a great roommate." —Lyle Mays

AAJ: In terms of your cymbals and drum kit, what were you using at the beginning and how did your kit and cymbals evolve during your tenure with the group?

DG: My first kit was a Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl Club date kit in 1968 that my main teacher Joe Morello endorsed. By the college years, I bought a Gretsch Mahogany kit that Mel Lewis (my second drum teacher) helped pick out. I started with A Zildjian cymbals (a ride, crash and hi-hats) and then bought a special Paiste Joe Morello set (20," 18," 17," 14" hi-hats). Then after spending time with Mel, he gave me a 20" Istanbul K Zildjian ride and some hi-hats. I ended up buying more K's when I was in Miami.

When Pat and I played at school (University of Miami), I don't think I ever played a flat ride but when I got the gig with Gary Burton, he had a set of Ludwig clear Vistalites but in jazz sizes. Rakalam Bob Moses had played them at one point, and Gary offered to let me use them. I really loved that kit. And after hearing Rakalam, I wanted to get some flat rides.

With Gary, I had 2 Zildjian flats, a Zildjian 20" pang, a 17" or 18" crash, and 14" K hi-hats (that Mel had given me). And for drums, I used his clear Vistalite kit for the year or so I was in his group, and then as a result of playing with Gary, I became a Ludwig endorser and got a Ludwig Vistalite set of my own. I got a pretty big set with both a 22" and an 18" bass drum for variety, and maybe 4 mounted toms, and 2 floor toms.

In fact, Pat and I went down to the Zildjian factory, and we picked out flat cymbals together. I picked up two 22" Zildjian flats that were lathed by Leon Chiappini (the cymbal expert at Zildjian) and they were thinner than normal. They sounded great. And years later, I gave one of those flats to drummer Steve Jordan. He used it on Donald Fagen's Nightfly recording.

As far as drums on Watercolors, and Pat Metheny Group, I used Gary Burton's set of Ludwig jazz sized Vistalite (18," 12," 14") and had both a Vistalite and a Black Beauty 6 ½" x 14" snare. Gary had left them at ECM and I used them in Oslo on all three of those first recordings (Gary's Passengers, Watercolors, and Pat Metheny Group).

When American Garage was recorded at Long View Farms in Wooster, Mass (1978), I had my large Vistalite set on hand (22," 8,"10,"12,"14,"16") but used an Eames snare drum (which was modeled after a 1920's George B. Stone wooden rimmed snare drum I had).

At the point in the late '70s or early '80s, Joe MacSweeney from Eames made a full set of drum shells for me (15 ply snare and 9 ply toms) but minus the hardware. They were so beautiful. We actually used the hardware off of my Vistalite drums on the Eames shells. Those drums are on Offramp (with a special monster model 18" Eames shell bass drum). For the snare, I used the Ludwig Black Beauty.

During the time between 1980 to 1983, I toured with a combination of Eames, Premier and Ludwig. On Travels, the live album, I used Eames on some tracks, Ludwig on some, and Premier on others. You can see the Premier set and an Eames shell with Ludwig hardware in the photo on the album. On many trips overseas, I often used whatever drums were provided.

AAJ: Was the flat ride cymbal something that was requested by Pat or Lyle or was it something that you had and instinctively brought into the music and applied?

DG: I don't know if Pat ever said "I love the cymbals Rakalam plays" but I sure did, and following him in Gary Burton's band, I just wanted to use flat rides.

During the January 1977 Eberhard Weber tour, we had a few nights off in Germany, and as my teacher and friend Joe Morello was a Paiste endorser, I got the idea to maybe take an overnight trip by train to the Paiste factory in Switzerland. I called the factory (and maybe Joe Morello called them as well) and I got on an overnight train by myself and went to the Paiste factory in Nottwil. I had the time of my life. One of the Paiste drummer service team members, Alex Bally, gave me a tour and then I met the great Fredy Studer, an incredible Swiss drummer who has been involved with Paiste development for many years.

While at the factory, Paiste offered me an endorsement and a complementary set of cymbals! I couldn't believe it. And Fredy Studer gave me one of his special 22" Medium flat rides, and I loved it. It had a unique "FS" signature underneath.

I took the train back to Germany, hadn't slept a wink on the whole trip, and then used those new cymbals on the rest of Eberhard's tour. And took them up to Norway to record with Pat on Watercolors.

After I got back to the US, the next tour with Gary (around February or March 1977), was a trip to San Francisco to start a tour at the Great American Music Hall. I remember Gary checked in the cymbals along with other band equipment as an airfreight shipment to San Francisco and the cymbals—the new Paiste bunch with the special Fredy Studer flat ride—were NEVER seen again. Someone stole them from the air freight delivery. And there was no insurance or recovery. I was so devastated. I called Fredy and had to tell him his cymbal and the rest were stolen, and he said don't worry and they sent me another set.

The first 22" Paiste Medium flat ride I used on the Pat Metheny Group white album was the replacement cymbal. I put two rivets in it, and it's the only flat ride (or any cymbal) I have from that recording. I think it was on my left and used as the main ride during Lyle's solo on "San Lorenzo."

For the Pat Metheny Group recording, I remember really being so influenced by Bernard Purdie, Steve Jordan and Steve Gadd around that time, and I wanted something funky during the more groove tunes. I had that 20" Istanbul K that Mel Lewis had given me and I really liked it. I believe the main ride cymbal on the Pat Metheny Group is the 20" K. Listen to the song "Jaco"—the ride sounds like a K, not the flat cymbal sound. I had all the cymbals there, and I probably switched them around from tune to tune. I wish I still had the K and those hi-hats. I have NO idea what I did with them.

Lastly, one thing Pat liked in the group was the two flat rides miked in Stereo. That way the audience would be immersed in the cymbal sound from left and right. It was fun and knowing it was miked that way, and the audience would hear the nuances, so I tried to move the ride focus around the sonic location (separating the ride beat between the two cymbals) so it would be an interesting sound for the audience.

AAJ: One of the most enjoyable aspects of the PMG is the diversity within the music. How did you stay on top of that ever changing demand in your playing?

DG: I was always listening to so much music from all genres. We all had very diverse musical backgrounds through college and it translated to the group. But Pat was very serious about quality playing of jazz material. You had to be a master improviser, which is why he chose Lyle. So we listened to everything, and as the group had an outlet for both acoustic songs and electric songs and combinations, it made the approach wide open.

AAJ: You played a lot with the brilliant percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, can you tell us what that was like and how did he affect your drumming approach in the group and beyond?

DG: Nana was amazing! He was so much fun to be around. Always positive, bringing a magical, creative process to everything he played. At first I wasn't sure what the musical addition would be but it was just great having another texture and rhythmic groove with whom to partner with in the group. I usually try to find a texture and feel to complete the music and if Nana would play the caxixi shakers, I would try to find a drum set sound that would complement the groove. He also had a very strong pulse, just as Airto does, and it was so strong that it really set the feel for any song on which he played. He was also a berimbau and talking drum master. I just wanted to learn from him. He was very giving, and many times would show me the techniques and grooves he used. It was like taking lessons from a master but he was always nice and fun and we mostly would play music and end up laughing a lot. He was someone with whom I would gravitate toward on the road as a real friend.

AAJ: During your tenure with the group, they began using drum machines and sequencers to play live. Was that difficult to learn?

DG: Pat came in with a drum machine box, put it behind me and explained we were going to use a particular beat for the song which became, I believe, "Straight On Red." At first I was kind of insulted as I thought it was like Pat was saying the groove wasn't solid enough and we're going to play to this machine. "Oh boy," I thought. But Nana played a great shaker part over the groove right away, and I thought I could come up with something that would work. And it did! It was actually very easy to play with the drum machine, and it did keep the time solid. As long as I could hear it, I could play with it, over it, or around it. Things were so primitive in those days. There were no in-ear monitors so everything came from a floor monitor. We had a great road crew though, and they made sure I could hear everything so it worked well.

On "Are You Going with Me," the synth part was in the synclavier, and we played along with that. There was no click from what I remember, but the repeating synth and drum machine just became part of the text of the song. It was the precursor to what Pat did in later versions of the group with much more intricate parts.

AAJ: If you had to point someone to one PMG track that you are playing on as a proud example of your drumming, what track would it be and why?

DG: That's a hard question because I like so many of them, and I like different songs for different moods. I like "San Lorenzo" for the relaxed feel; I like "Wrong Is Right" because I can't believe we played it that fast.I love Mark's soloing and feel on "Jaco." I like "Phase Dance" because it was our opening song. I like everything on Watercolors because I can't believe I played an entire album with Eberhard on bass, and they were tunes I played with Pat for years. And I love the writing from Pat and Lyle, and the amazing playing from both of them. But if I had to pick ONLY one? "San Lorenzo!"

AAJ: When you think about your tenure in the PMG now, what first comes to mind?

DG: Proud! I loved that band and the music and I am proud that I was a part of the entire experience.

And to make one final note, I am such a fan of Paul and Antonio and the creative energy they brought to the music of the group. I have had to play some of the tunes Paul recorded with PMG (like "The First Circle," etc) with big bands and percussion ensembles and that music is not easy. Paul did an amazing job with all of that. Antonio sounded unbelievable in the group. The music he plays with his own group, and the Birdman solos—incredible. I send them both love and support, and it's wonderful to share our camaraderie as Pat Metheny Group drummers and road warriors!


Danny performs and records with a variety of artists. He is a member of Gary Sinse's Lt. Dan Band. He is Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. He has authored a drum set text book entitled The Evolution of Jazz Drumming and has released 10 educational drum DVDs.

Mark Egan on Danny Gottlieb

What has always impressed me about Danny's playing even before the PMG and during our time previously at the University of Miami Music School was his fluidness and sensitivity on the drums. Danny has amazing hand technique and coordination and he applies that to the drums and cymbals. He also is a listener and knows how to compliment the musical situation at hand.

During our years with the PMG I was always impressed by his positive attitude of making the music sound as great as possible. He was very open to creative suggestions by the group and wanted to improve. As the group evolved, we all got stronger and more aware of the dynamics of creating a good performance. Danny worked very hard at getting a strong groove while at the same time playing dynamically and complimenting the orchestrations and solos. We also went from touring in clubs to large concert halls. Playing these larger venues required similar sensibilities to playing in clubs but a much broader dynamic range could be used to fill the rooms. For Danny this broader range meant playing more powerfully while at the same time being able to hear a pin drop in a quiet section.

The group was an improvising chamber ensemble that not only played the constantly evolving arrangements but also the extended improvisations. Each solo had a building curve to it and we were all listening and reacting to the soloist. Also Danny's cymbal setup evolved to become very elaborate to include Gongs along with his drum set. His physical strength on the drums developed from playing so many concerts at such an intensity level.

Danny and I worked together on developing the grooves and were always listening to each other and evolving the various rhythmic feels. When I started playing fretless in the group it really complimented the touch and sound of Danny's drums and cymbals as well as the overall sound of Pat and Lyle.

We were so fortunate to be in this very creative group where we could experiment every night and grow together. Pat had a very clear vision of how he wanted the band to sound and we were supportive of this vision and brought our musical sensibilities to compliment his vision. Lyle Mays was also extremely responsible for the creative vision and orchestration of the group. Supporting Lyle's orchestrations as well as accompanying his inspiring solos had a great effect on my playing. I think for both Danny and I, supporting Pat and Lyle's solos helped us evolve as a rhythm section.

Paul Wertico (1983-2001)

ALBUMS: First Circle, the Falcon and the Snowman, Still Life (Talking), Letter From Home, the Road to You, We Live Here, Quartet, Imaginary Day

"I do feel that every musician needs to know as much as they can about the drums in general and what drummers have to go through to do what they do. It is incredibly difficult to be a great drummer." —Pat Metheny

All About Jazz: Before joining PMG, you were a sought after and known creative drummer based out of Chicago. In fact, your native drumming is quite open and improvisational and almost opposite of what you found yourself doing in the PMG. How did you approach your playing with the group?

Paul Wertico: It actually wasn't hard for me to adjust at all for the very reason that I am an improvisational musician. As soon as I joined the band, I got together with Steve Rodby and we kind of ran through things. I had previously known and played with Steve before while working with guitarist Ross Traut, as well as with the Simon & Bard Group. Both of those situations were playing ECM types of music. The whole ECM style of drumming was already part of me. I also already had flat ride cymbals because after the first time I heard Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs with Roy Haynes, I immediately bought a flat ride the next day.

The biggest challenge was basically learning all the arrangements since there weren't that many charts. So, I studied the recordings to better familiarize myself with the music. Before I joined the band, I didn't really listen all that much to the PMG, to be honest. In fact, the first time I flew out to Boston to play with Pat, Lyle and Steve, we started playing "Are You Going with Me?" and I didn't really know the song, even though I had the record. But, it's not because I didn't like the music, it's just that there was so much other music I was playing and listening to at the time. However, I had seen the band play live three times and I loved what I heard, and of course, I thought they were all marvelous musicians.

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