New Works Magazine:Music In Halifax 1985

5: "They say my music is
          too Black,
    but I can only play what I feel."

Some local musicians may need more than a change in consumer taste before they find regular employment. Flexx is an eight member band playing some original material and some top 40 covers. Band members make it clear that they are not Just a funk band; they're willing play anything that will get them into clubs. "Flexx stands for flexible," vocalist, guitar and keyboard player Jeremiah Sparks says. ''We can play anything so we like it."

Flexx got the best audience response in a Canada Day contest in which popular bar entertainers the Water Street Blues Band and Dimitri also competed. But because all eight members are Black, Flexx may find it hard to get work at many of the downtown clubs.

The number of Black musicians looking for work is well out of proportion to the seven or eight occasionally playing in Halifax clubs. Black musicians occasionally perform at the Middle Deck and at the Odeon, but the Network, the Misty Moon, and the Palace, all of which at one time frequently hired Black musicians, now employ Blacks so seldom it looks like policy. The only bar in recent years to have hired Black musicians on a regular basis, The Tap, closed down last year.

"There's a lot of racism going on in Halifax as far as the club scene goes," Corey Adams says.

"Last year, I made my living off playing. It kept me pretty good," he says. Adams says he has work coming up at the Middle Deck but hasn't played any clubs since opening for Martha Reeves at the rhythm and blues Odeon.

Adams says most bar owners haven't been very receptive lately. "They tell me my music is too Black, but I can only play what I feel."

"There's a lot of racism going on in Halifax as far as the club scene goes."

Some of the club owners argue that "Black music", rhythm and blues or funk, won't make money for the club. "Black music", they say, doesn't attract a White audience, and a Black audience doesn't spend enough money to keep a club In business. No one in Halifax is counting on a mixed audience.

Bob Bzanson, who brought several Black funk acts to the Odeon over the summer, says he used to think funk was bad for a club. "I don't know how to look at it anymore. There's a majestic energy about it that's entertaining," Bzanson says. "They get a rapport going with the audience. It's a party and that's what the Odeon is, a party room."

But even the experimenting Odeon is reluctant to party with local Black bands. One club manager, who refused to be identified, said he didn't want to hire local Black musicians because of the following they might attract. It's not that he doesn't want Blacks in the club, he explained, it's just that there is a certain element that in the past has caused violence and vandalism in clubs that have hired local Black musicians. He wouldn't, or perhaps couldn't, give an example.

Detective Sergeant Tom Spearns of the Halifax Police Department says he can't recall any reports of violence or vandalism by patrons, Black or White, in any nightclub in Halifax.

Flexx has arranged their own concerts at Club 55 on Gottingen Street and the old Home for Coloured Children in Westphal. The band is putting together a demonstration tape using CBC studio time they won at the concert on the Commons. They're uncertain what the response will be, but band members are hopeful. "We've proven our point," Jeremiah Sparkes says.

Other Black musicians have given up on the entertainment establishment. After-hours clubs have flourished in basements in the North End, although the latest closed a year ago. Corey Adams talks about the need for a club run by Blacks for Black musicians. He says he has seen a .picture of five Black musicians practicing in the chicken coop in North Preston in the middle of winter, gloves and earmuffs on. Black musicians, he says, have to make their own opportunities.

With neighbour Kevin Oliver, Adams has formed his own promotions company, the Cory Adams Promoting Arts Society. Adams organized the Canada Day concert on the Commons and put together a street dance on Maynard Street on the Natal Day weekend.

Bucky Adams has also formed his own company, called the Bucky Adams School of Music. Through BASOM, Adams has produced a series of concert video tapes that he has distributed to Pennsylvania, Arizona, and New York State and shown on Dartmouth Cable.

Bucky Adams has been playing without pay at the City Club bar most week nights from 4 to 7, before the regular customers start to arrive. Working under the name Bucky Adams and Friends, Adams has been Jamming with whoever wants to play good Jazz. The sound changes from evening to evening. "I've been trying to come up with a label," Adams says. "Everything in this world must have a label. That's how you know what to go and buy."

Adams figures he's been treated poorly in Halifax but he isn't about to quit trying. "The way I look at it, they crucified the Lord; I can't complain.

"Everyone has a Jargon," Adams says. "I figure the Jargon for the Black people or any of the rainbow people in this province is 'I can't do this' or 'Ican't do that.'

"I don't know if it's a fantasy or a pipe dream, but I keep thinking that one day this will be a nice, big city where Jazz will be played."

Next: Jazz, folk, and classical