A few clips here of drummer Jeff Hamilton demonstrating his melodic approach to playing the drums:
Drummer Alvin Atkinson talked about playing like this at length a few weeks ago at a workshop I attended in Calgary. Alvin stressed the importance of young drummers learning the melodies of the tunes they are playing and doing EVERYTHING necessary to replicate that on the drum set.
Alvin really impressed everyone with his ability to change the pitch of his drums by pressing his elbow into the head, thus changing the tension of the drum head. By no means is this the only way to play melodically on the drums, but this technique really works when done well and with finesse.
Art Blakey was renowned for this drum "trick" and Max Roach would frequently have a pitch-bending, tympani-floor tom (activated with a pedal) included in his set-up during the 70s that would also replicate the same effect.
I'll now add that to my long list of things to practice !