A very old joke goes, Q: How many drummers doers it take to screw in a light bulb? A: One, but there are another 20 hanging around thinking about how they could do it better.
I'm afraid I used to be very guilty of this sort of thinking. One of the many problems with this attitude is it leads to not hearing how the drums work with the music in it's entirety, just what the drums are doing, and if it's sufficiently mind blowing in a technical, chops-based way. We also don't appreciate the unique qualities the particular drummer with a group is bringing to the music. They are not doing what we would do? GOOD! We're not up there, that particular drummer is! Could it be they have a very different conception than ours, and we're just not "getting it"? I saw Peter LaRoca play years ago, and didn't like it very much. After checking him out a lot on recordings some years later, I realized that when I had seen him live, my ears were not advanced enough at the time to fully understand what he was doing.
Yes, sometimes we will hear musicians that probably need more experience and craft, but even in that case, let's try to focus on what IS working. If something isn't working, let's try to discern if it's something that's occurring in our own playing, or how we as teachers would address that issue. We can be creative with our listening too.
The other thing with being in an audience and being really judgmental is that it's something coming from our egos, and spreads negative energy. When I'm in an audience now, I'm am listening because I love music, and try to be just as dedicated a listener as I am a performer. I try to focus on what's happening onstage, how I can learn from it, and how it affects me emotionally. There are just as many lessons from actively witnessing and listening to a performance as there are from playing somewhere.
To close out, here's two contrasting but great performances. The first is Pete LaRoca playing with Jackie McLean on McLean's "Minor Apprehension " . I was fascinated to find out from Scott K. Fish's Blog that this is the first "free" drum solo on record! Enjoy…
And here's something equally great. I got a chance to see William Prince play two tunes at a variety show last night and was totally blown away. He has such a beautiful warm voice, writes beautiful songs, has a great, honest stage presence, and his band is killing! Check out the title tune from his new recording, "Reliever".