Maslow's best known work came to be known as "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs". This theory is often expressed as a pyramid with basic physical needs at the bottom and "higher end" thinking at the top. Maslow submits that humans have certain needs that must be met in order for other needs to be relevant. The physical needs of food, clothing, and shelter must be met if we are to realize other elements of our existence. Indeed, if we are not clothed, fed, and sheltered it is pretty pointless - impossible, even - to do much of anything else! (
This concept can be applied to the drummers in the jazz ensemble. Drums can play many roles in a jazz ensemble, and the drummer, more than any other player, plays a direct role in the overall sound of the group. Helping young drummers develop is critical not only for the individual player but also for the entire ensemble. We can apply Maslow's theories here in a slightly different way.
The most basic need out of the drummer is TIME. Call it rhythm, beat, groove, tempo or whatever but the drummer MUST be able to play solid time and consistent tempo if the band is to make any progress. For a beginning drummer, this may mean playing a very simplified version of the drum part until he or she develops the necessary coordination.
Next on the list would be dynamics. The volume of the drummer impacts the overall volume of the ensemble. Make certain your drummer is ALWAYS listening and balancing the dynamics of the ensemble. This can be done even while playing a very basic beat pattern.
Next would be any fills or solos. The player can simply play time through these passages until they have developed the necessary more basic skills. During this time, the other members of the ensemble can be tightening their parts, solo sections can be worked, on, etc. Finally, things like fills and setups are the icing on the cake. These elements really make a band "jump" and add excitement to the overall performance.
As great as they are, though, they mean little if basics like time and dynamics are not met first. By working in this way, your drummer has a chance to develop along with the rest of the band. As always, listening and personal practice are critical to this development. Here's to getting to the top of the pyramid!