Time Capsule: David Garibaldi’s Yamaha Phoenix Kit


I saw David Garibaldi at my very first rock concert in 1972 and I decided right there I was going to be a drummer. Fast forward to today, and he’s been a regular at my shop since we first opened and visits almost every time he comes to town. We met for breakfast a few months ago when he was in Seattle for a series of gigs with Tower Of Power. We always have lots to talk about, but eventually our conversation leads to drums. Garibaldi has accumulated a lot of drums since he joined Tower Of Power more than 50 years ago and wanted my help selling some of his extensive collection. There are dozens of Yamaha drums that he’s collected in his 37 years as a Yamaha endorser, including cases with forgotten drums that have not been opened in decades. One of my favorite kits in the collection is his 2009 Yamaha Phoenix drum set.

It took a little persuading to get Garibaldi to try Yamaha’s Phoenix drums when they were introduced in early 2009. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the Phoenix drums, he just really loved the Recording Customs that he’d been playing for years and was reluctant to switch. The Phoenix (PHX) kit featured a radical new half-inch-thick shell with 11 plies of exotic woods. The shell starts with inner plies of hard jakoba, then progressively softer plies of kapur, maple, and burled ash. This was a lot for drummers to wrap their heads around. The price didn’t make it any easier, with a 4-piece shell pack listed at over $12,000! Eventually the drum-buying public warmed to the Phoenix, which is now considered one of the best-sounding drums ever made.

After several months of “encouragement” from Joe Testa (formerly at Yamaha), Garibaldi warmed to the Phoenix as well. He received this set and debuted it with Tower Of Power in December 2009 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The main set features a high gloss burled ash “Sapphire Fade” finish. It includes a 22″ bass drum with 10″, 13″, and 16″ mounted toms. It also includes a 24″ bass drum and 8″ tom that Garibaldi experimented with, but rarely played.

He must have liked them, as the Phoenix was his “go-to” set for the next six years. He played the set on countless gigs and recordings, including Tower Of Power’s latest album, On The Soul Side Of Town. He retired the set in 2016.

Donn Bennett is an eminent collector and dealer of rare and vintage drums. His collection is on display at Donn Bennett Drum Studio in Bellevue, Washington. donn@bennettdrums.com