Crime mutes street music

Saxophonist loses horn to robbers

Staff WriterJanuary 27, 2007 

— The strains of Duke Ellington have faded on Fayetteville Street, along with the familiar honks of the "Sanford & Son" theme.

Gerald Alexander -- downtown Raleigh's only street musician save an occasional bongo player -- reports robbers jumped him and stole his saxophone.

"I tried to chase them, man," he said, glum on a downtown park bench. "But I'm 57. I'm too old."

Alexander drifted into Raleigh last fall, having fled San Diego for a new life. He set out an open saxophone case outside the CVS Pharmacy or the Morning Times coffee shop and played "Misty" for spare change.

On the day after James Brown died, he played "Please Please Please" and shouted "It's a Man's World!" to passers-by.

He didn't even mind paying a $40 fee Raleigh requires of its street performers.

"What I'm doing is giving the city some aura," he said at the time.

Conflicting accounts

His memory of the robbery is a bit spotty. It was last Friday night outside The Pour House, he said, when two men jumped him, making him drop the horn.

But Patrick Felder, who manages The Pour House, said Alexander got jumped more like two weeks ago, and it was in Moore Square, across the street.

This information, he said, is reliable because it comes from Chester, a homeless man who sometimes sweeps up inside the club and knows everything about downtown.

Raleigh police have no record of the event. Alexander says he didn't report it, and he mumbled that he needs a new horn -- not publicity.

What is clear, though, is Alexander's absent saxophone.

He carries a picture of himself playing his old one, along with a sleeping bag he has been spreading out at night on a downtown grate. He says he will get a VA check Feb. 1 for $1,000, but until then, he is broke. He tells passers-by that he got jumped, and sometimes they buy him coffee.

Anyone who can spare a saxophone can find Alexander downtown, in a ski hat and earring, whistling a lonesome tune.

Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com.

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