I recently had a conversation regarding influences with another player and I thought I'd write down a few of my thoughts. In music, there are always new talented players that come along and how they affect you will change as you go through your career. For example, I can still remember where I was the first time I heard Tony Williams, Elvin, and Monk. Partially the reason these experiences are still so clear to me is that I was young and just starting to find out about the music. That excitement I felt was created by this information coming at a formative time when I still hadn't heard very much music, so every time I heard something, it was completely new to me. Cool as this feeling was (and occasionally still is) it's pretty hard to sustain. So as much as I love Brian Blade, for example, I'm not going to hear him in the same way as someone who's just starting to check out Jazz and improvised music. His influence can't be as strong as some of my earlier listening. Plus, at this point in my life, I can't devote all my energy to checking out the latest thing and immersing myself in it to the exclusion of all else.
Plus, with a lot of the newer artists, as great as they are, I'm more likely to hear things that I feel are missing, as opposed to when I was young and just heard the new, cool parts of things.
It's interesting, when I studied at Banff in 1988, I feel I was very impressionable and was likely to get sucked in and completely "blown off course" if you will from any strong player I heard. Originally, when Dave Holland was heading the program he wanted DeJohnette to teach there, but it didn't work out. I think if he had, it might have been problematic for me (ironically) because I loved ( and do love) his playing so much. In fact, for awhile I had to not listen to Jack because I was becoming a very lame copy of him. As it was "Smitty" Smith was there, and it was great hearing him and checking him out. It was also impossible to even attempt to copy him because not only could I not begin to approach what he was doing technically, I couldn't even figure out what most of was he was playing was!!
So enjoy those first glimpses of what's possible on the drums, they will stay with you for a long time!