Today I was thinking about all the great drummers I've enjoyed so much over the years and how some of them transcend the idiom, some of them transcend the drums themselves.
Ever hear Roy Haynes play funk? Or Mel Lewis play a funky backbeat? Or hear Tony Williams play a rock feeling? It's still totally them, still has their fingerprint all over it, it's improvised and loose, but it's not "stock" by a long shot. It's their personality, their sound, their ideas, transcending the idiom.
You transcend the idiom by learning the vocabulary and the devices, the nuts and bolts, etc... then you're getting started.
On the flip side, check how the drummer on Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" plays a jazzy three feel. Or check the loose feel that Stevie Wonder plays drums on a song like "Seems So Long"
Or check how Paul McCartney plays drums on his first two solo albums and also on "Chaos and Creation", the way they both orchestrate for the music when they play drums is so perfect, so natural and easy sounding.
They transcend the drums, by not thinking like drummers. How can they? They play all the instruments and the drums are just one part of it all.
How can drummers do this? To free themselves of the patternistic trappings of the trap set?
They are not thinking about what they are playing. They are thinking about what they are doing. And that function doesn't change all that much from idiom to idiom. I mean, in be-bop a drummer may be employing a conversational and melodic approach as opposed to in rock or funk a more beat oriented, repetitive approach. But essentially, they're doing the same thing. Serving the music. And hey, a rock song can have conversational/melodic drums in it, too, if the music asks, answer.
Always play for the music. The Melody. The Form. The changes. The dynamics. The statement being made. The musical vision, the composers intent. The energy.
Remember, it's not about what you're playing, it's about what you're doing.