|From the streets of New York to the hotels of the world, what changed in the life of Charles Gayle since his hobo days? Some more money, for sure, but considering the earnings made by jazz musicians today not much; a wider recognition of his work, with people stopping their businesses for some moments to listen to him in concert or in record, instead of passing by in a hurry in some subway station; and a project of life, another way of saying a “career”, started in 1988 after 20 years of street performances for a coin. But that’s it, because the essential is the same: Gayle is still a musician in the move, and if he travels today by plane and train, he’s the same nomad he was before, a man with a horn, a message and some needs playing wherever there are people. When he performs in Europe with the red nose of a clown he isn’t only joking or making fun of himself, he’s protesting.
A protest doesn’t need to be political, even considering he’s a heir of the New Thing of the Sixties with all its Black Power bravado, and that’s not what we think when listening to his music. Including the new “Consider the Lilies”, again a collection of hymns directed to God, with titles like “Sanctify”, “Jesus… Amen” and “Giving”. Gayle’s entire life is a protest, and he sees life itself as a protest, a manifestation of vigour, of commitment, of joy and of hanger, not against the Creator or the other men and their institutions, but against humanity’s inner miseries, his own and ours collectively. To understand this is to understand the sounds and songs of this extraordinary saxophonist (this time using the alto sax, except in one track, in which he seats at the piano, an instrument he learned in church at a young age) living a second chance, but never forgetting what came first –he doesn’t mention it and tells absolutely no stories about his past as a homeless, but we sense that all the memories are there. Is he a bit candid, as a musician and a person? Maybe, but that’s good. As he put it in an interview, “I am a kid. There is a kid in me, and I want him to stay in me for a while.”