LISTENING, rather than hammering the kit, isn’t always thought of as something drummers are good at. But the quieter a group plays (and jazz bands, often working in small rooms with low amplification, sometimes play very quietly), the more aware the drummer has to be of what’s going on elsewhere in the band.
Jazz groups also improvise. Unlike the percussionist or timpanist in a classical orchestra, or the drummer keeping a groove tight for dancers, the jazz drummer has to be prepared for the music to change direction unexpectedly, perhaps speed up or slow down, shift to another beat, maybe turning into a completely different tune without warning.
Seb Rochford believes sticking close to the bass player is a good guide. But nothing is better than just keeping your ears as wide open as possible, as he explains here.