This is related to my earlier post ( Q. Who's that great drummer on that recording? A. You.) but I thought I'd mention it briefly. Today I was playing along with the great Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden recording "Jasmine". Now this recording is mainly ballads, 4/4 time, just bass and drums, so there's nothing to playing along with it, right?
Not so fast (literally) Sonny! And I don't mean Rollins, Greenwich, or Clark!
There are many choices to make when playing drums along with this, and because there's no drummer on the recording, they're yours to make. Let's list some of them.
1. Implements. Brushes? Sticks? Mallets? Hands? A combination?
2. How are you expressing the ballad time? 12/8? Straight 8ths? Double time feel? A combination?
3. How are you changing colours between the piano and bass solos?
4. Are you playing empathetically yet strongly during the bass solos? Mr. Haden plays the time very freely, especially when he's blowing and it's easy to get off the rails.
5. Are the dynamics and amount of space in keeping with the spirit of each piece?
All of the above questions (especially no. 5) you will have to answer with the taste and good judgement you have developed through countless hours of listening. This may not get you a gig at a drum festival but it will certainly help you become a tasteful and supportive small group player.
Here's a brief doc on the making of the recording. Check it out, then go buy it and then play to it and raise your level as an aware musician!