SUGAR LAND--As I was sitting at dinner with my parents tonight, they had some background music going on their (admittedly cool Bose Wave) radio. What they were listening to was the ultimate in background music--the smooth "jazz" station. I've probably griped about the one in Dallas before (you locals know what I'm talking about), but at least they tend to play stuff that someone would describe as jazz, even if I wouldn't do that. This one, however, was all over the map: very late fusion-y Miles (his cover of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" from Tutu, then some of that generic stuff with the same electronic groove they've been using since the mid-'80s. We also heard Phil Collins and Michael McDonald in there, and I'm wondering how anyone would think that fit on any sort of "jazz" format. Oh, and in the middle was a perfectly good tune--Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." I haven't heard programming that schizophrenic since the last time I heard that free-form "community" radio station in Dallas (which I'm not even sure is on the air anymore). It was almost as if somebody had their entire CD collection on shuffle mode.
The only thing that really bugs me about stations like this is the fact that they use the word "jazz" in their title. When the smooth genre became a separate radio format in the late eighties, it used to be called New Age music, but I think that two things eventually happened: 1) That title started to apply to the Windham Hill-type stuff or strictly synth music, and 2) the masses were scared away by the pseudo-religious undertones (crystals, etc.) of that name. Somehow, a radio programmer somewhere decided to defile the name of jazz with the "smooth" prefix and it stuck. (Granted, my preferred title, Yuppie Hot Tub Wallpaper Music, never caught on either, though it could also be dubbed Modern Easy Listening as well.)
I wouldn't be griping so much about this today were it not for the fact that the last real jazz station in Houston, the one that's housed on the UofH campus, went all-classical quite some time ago. So there really isn't an option--save for satellite radio and one's own CD collection) here in the Houston area at all. I think my parents know that it bugs me to listen to it, but at least we've avoided the G-weasel thus far (thank goodness for several days of all-Christmas music, though I realize that he's muddied that genre as well). There's actually a decent jazz scene down here, but you'd never know it from the radio dial.
I'm not griping so much about the right of this music to exist (even if I'm not gonna do it), but rather the fact that it has the word "jazz" in its name when it bears so little resemblance to jazz, other than the (usual) presence of horns and absence of singing. So what would your suggestion be for a name for this music--one that doesn't contain the word "jazz" at all?
Travel advisory: After a meet-up with my sister and nephews in Katy for lunch, I'll be headed back to Dallas in the afternoon; regular posts (meaning "not necessarily late at night, because I'll have computer access all I want") will resume shortly thereafter.
Dumb driving maneuver of the week: Ever seen someone make a right turn onto a major highway, and they don't exactly stay in the right lane but rather veer into the center one a little (or a lot), nearly sideswiping someone in that lane? I saw that today, and the car that the pickup truck driver (you knew it had to be a pickup, right?) almost sideswiped was a cop! Sure enough, the officer got right behind the truck after that; would he just follow him a bit, to make him think, or actually pull him over for his act of stupidity? The answer: Busted, once they got to the nearest parking lot. For once, there actually was a cop there when you needed one.