It was my turn to cook dinner for the family tonight. I had my iPod on shuffle, and “People Say” by The Meters was playing while I waited at the Taco Bell window for our food. The lady (shift manager at Taco Bell) stuck her head out and said, “oooh, you listening to some jazz tonight?” All I could muster in response was, “yeah, well, some Meters.”
Prior to that moment, jazz and The Meters occupied fairly different parts of my genre consciousness, but maybe they are pretty much the same thing to the general public.* That made me wonder, “are The Meters jazz?” What does it mean if they are? What does it mean if they aren’t? Does it matter?
I consider myself a jazz musician essentially (at least when I am forced to chose a side in the genre wars), AND I play in George Porter’s band, The Runnin’ Pardners.** George is one of The Meters, and we play some of those tunes. I don’t suffer any existential angst while doing that, it is actually quite fun. Does the word jazz even mean anything any more (did it ever)? To the lady at Taco Bell, The Meters sounded like jazz, I hold up Ornette Coleman as one of my favorite jazz musicians, yet I am sure it would be quite easy find someone to tell me that neither of those are jazz (or even very close to jazz).
Does genre segregation help us find other music we will like, or does it saddle us with unnecessary (and counter-productive to musical enjoyment) expectations, or both? No conclusions yet, just thinking out loud (or at least in writing).
* I have long maintained that genre segregation is bad, and will write at length about it at some point.