A good friend was recently talking about how he felt pigeon holed in the scene he was playing in and felt he didn't get some work because of some preconceived notions about the sort of player he is.
Wow! That sounds familiar!
I think the stereotyping and general underestimation of one's abilities is something that happens to most music professionals. There are many reasons people do this.
1. Lack of imagination.
Some people listen to certain musics (Jazz especially) to feel better about themselves, to elevate above the "unwashed masses" and prove how intelligent they are.
For folks like these, the fact that a great Bebop player may also be a Sex Pistols fan and play that music well may be too much for them to bear, because it destroys their way of worshiping one style while denigrating the other. They might actually have to listen to something and decide for themselves if they actually like it!
Unlike the first reason I mentioned, which tends to get deployed by music fans. This second reason is more the domain of fellow musicians.
Some musicians, upon hearing another musician do something well, will imagine that they are a specialist (even though there may be no solid evidence for this) and can't do much else. Why? Because they're feeling inferior and again trying to make themselves feel better. ( Previously guilty as charged, your honour!)
Someone may think something like, "Oh yeah, he plays a killer backbeat but he probably can't play brushes to save his life!"
a) Who cares? if they're playing the gig their on, that's what's important and...
b) if they've worked very hard on playing, they've probably gotten a lot of things together that they're not well known for. For example, I've never heard Simon Phillips play a Jazz Waltz, but he's so accomplished I would expect him to play a fairly smokin' one!
So there are some reasons people might underestimate us (or vice-versa).
What can we do about it?
I think the first thing is to not put limitations on ourselves. Play any kind of music you get a chance to. Learn about styles of music that you never actually play in public. (Certainly this is the case with myself and Cuban and Brazilian music, but I've learned so much I'm sure its helped EVERYTHING I play.)
If you want to broaden peoples opinions of yourself. You may need to make inroads into other scenes. If you want to play more blues, hang out at the blues clubs and attend their jam sessions. Or be wiling to be a leader to do a wider variety of things. Go to the Reggae club and be willing to pay the hot players in that scene decently even if it means you make a little less.
Finally, if you don't get called for something, try to just move on. The reasons why people get or don't get a gig are myriad, and you'll drive yourself crazy wondering why. (Again, been there, done that!) Try to focus on the music and tomorrow's another day!