I had many blogs on the subject of listening. You can go through some of them if you wish. Let’s put it in a social contest.
I have learnt that when someone tells you his problems, it doesn’t mean he wants you to fix them. He might just want to say out loud what is troubling him for reasons him and him alone understand. Sometimes, he doesn’t want you to answer. Just the presence of you and a nod here and there does the job.
Same in music.
I think the instrument that characterizes that attitude the best is the viola. They are stuck between two star instruments: the violin and the cello. Very rarely will you have the viola shinning in its own right while the rest of the orchestra is busy supporting its mood. Viola is the instrument of compromises. It needs to understand the bass and the melody. It has to place itself dynamically as part of the group or doubling what the violin is playing. It is the prime example of listening instruments. Its function is define by listening to others.
And many time, the viola will not react as the soloist will rage and swell. The viola will keep doing its own part with no drama, no changes.
That can be applied to drums. There is an art to playing the drums that way.
You receive the sounds from the singer or the guitar player, but you don’t necessarily react to them. You just keep the groove. No need to do a big crash when the guy is on its knees, no need to bring it up when he’s spitting flames. You just keep going. Same beat, same groove, same dynamics. You don’t answer, you offer support by simply being there with a strong groove.
You don’t comment, you don’t suggest. You just receive. Difficult to do. Specially when you have a big tool kit of technique at your disposal. Something even some of the best drummers have a hard time understanding.
That is why you have some of the biggest names in the drum industry who have failed auditions with very famous bands: they didn’t receive.